After the destruction and numerous deaths of World War II, Europeans began to question their Enlightenment roots. They began to doubt fundamental “truths.” They recognized that everything, from their very existence to government power, was fragile and relative. Because of this, a new philosophy developed that reflected the moods and questions of the time– existentialism. Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were leaders in this philosophical trend. Like society, Sartre questioned ultimate values, the meaning of life, and and trust. One could argue that the philosophy reflects the worst side of humanity, that it is representative of inaction, or that it focuses too much on the individual. Nonetheless, it has an influential philosophy. [I find it to be interesting. If you’re looking for an unorthodox, good, thought provoking read- check out Camus’  The Stranger.]

To elaborate more on the philosophy:

Sartre believed in existence before essence. In other words, we aren’t anything unless we choose what we are. He argued that there is no such thing as human nature; biology and the past do not determine who we are. There is no one way we have to be. He claimed that, at the beginning we are nothing at all, but through what we choose and want to do, we become particular human beings.We are what we make of ourselves Sartre also declared that there is no god- we are in a “state of abandonment.” For the most part, one could view this as an optimistic perspective- the idea of free will- but Sartre viewed human beings’ freedom to make choices as a burden. He said we are “condemned to be free” because- when we choose for ourselves, we choose something that affects the rest of humanity; responsibility extends not only to our own choices, but to everything. With every choice, we “fashion humanity.”

Existentialism also led to questioning of “enormous expansion of state power,” which is addressed in George Orwell’s novel, 1984.

For more information on Existentialism, see the informative video below. {the source of my previous Sartre quotes}

Jean Paul Sartre\’s Existentialism


2 Comments so far

  1.    andrewthomasthefirstborn1990ofapril on December 3, 2009 11:57 pm

    The Marshall Plan was the main part to rebuilding Europe. Named after Secretary of State George Marshall, the Plan was to give a massive amount of add to Europe. A little know fact about the plan is that the USA offered relief to USSR and its satellite states. Because of the strings attached to getting aid from the plan, the USSR rejected. Those strings were: 1. that the US government had a say on how the countries spent the money and be able to view budget records. 2. That the money was used to buy goods produced in the USA. The USSR viewed the plan as the USA trying to push capitalism on the rest of the world. The plan started in 1947 and ended in 1952.

    To counter act the Marshall plan, the USSR started the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance which provided aid to rebuild Eastern Europe. The Marshall Plan was a huge success as there was fast economic growth in the 16 nations that received USA aid from the plan. I Western Germany in particular there was a production growth of 50% over prewar levels. By the end of the plan, the USA had given over $650 billion dollars (in today’s money) in credit and grants. The successes of the Marshall plan swayed a lot of people in Europe towards capitalism rather than communist.
    The Truman Doctrine was put in place by President Truman and was meant to stop the spread communism through the world. This is when the policy of containment was made. In Iran, USA and British presences force a pull out of soviet forces. Russia also demanded access to the Mediterranean by Turkish waters. This led to the USA sending a permit navel force to protect the area. Russia also backed communism rebels in Greece. This led to a massive amount of USA aid to Greece that amounted to $700 million. By the end of 1949, the USA started to use this policy of containment on a global scale rather than just in Europe.
    The Creation of Israel happened in 1948. The international community after the war ended agreed that a new area in Palestine was needed for the Jewish community. The British had promised the Jewish a new homeland. In 1947 the British passed on the responsibility of the Arab/Jewish clash to the UN. The USA eagerly recognized the new state Israel. This led to the USA becoming the main backer of Israel throughout the cold war. On the other side of the spectrum, the USSR started to back the Israel’s enemies, such as Syria or Iraq.

    After the war ended, Soviets accelerated their nuclear program with captured German scientists. By 1949 the Soviets successfully devolved an atomic bomb. After that the Soviets were only months behind when the USA devolved hydrogen bomb. These weapons when combined with ICBMs led to the prospect of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Both countries spent untold billions of dollars on these advancements. The nuclear clubs eventually included France, England, China, Pakistan, and India.

  2.    ehill on December 4, 2009 1:07 am

    Just for clarification- I (Erin) completed the first half of ch.25 section one (existentialism to Berlin Airlift) and Andrew completed the second half (The Marshall Plan through Nuclear Arms Race). Sorry for the multiple posts.

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