Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"We are fully responsible for who it is that we become. In the final analysis, there is no one else to blame. It is totally our own doing. We are always already free to remake our present and future by disencumbering ourselves of unwanted and unhelpful aspects of our past history. Freedom, choice, and responsibility are the ethical watchwords of existentialism." - Robert E. Carter, fully Robert Edgar Carter

"A slogan explains Existentialism: “Existence precedes essence.” Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus agree with this statement. Kierkegaard and Heidegger deny this statement." - Stephen A. Erickson

"The basic sense of vocation which once gave meaning and direction to all walks of life has been the causality of collectivism, existentialism and sexualism, three of the moods induced by widespread practical atheism." - John Joseph Wright

"The central theme of existentialism: to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is no purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsiblity that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to gorow in spite of all indiginities." - Gordon Willard Allport

"Man simply is. Not that he simply is what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives of himself after already existing - as he will to be... Man is nothing else but that which is makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"Dostoevsky said, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conniption of it. Man simply is... Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"Existentialism means that no one else can take a bath for you." - Delmore Schwartz

"Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair. And if by despair one means as the Christians do – any attitude of unbelief, the despair of the existentialists is something different. Existentialism is not atheist in the sense that it would exhaust itself in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. It declares, rather, that even if God existed that would make no difference from its point of view. Not that we believe God does exist, but we think that the real problem is not that of His existence; what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. It is a doctrine of action, and it is only by self-deception, by confining their own despair with ours that Christians can describe us as without hope." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men. There was Stalingrad and there was Buchenwald, and neither of the two wipes out the other. Since we do not succeed in fleeing it, let us therefore try to look the truth in the face. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting." - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir