Essay on Consciousness: Are We All In This Together?

1266 Words6 Pages
A question that continues to puzzle scholars (and Honors students, alike) is that of what defines human consciousness. It would be simple to say that it is defined by one’s awareness of itself and of its surroundings. What makes the question so difficult to answer, though, is that consciousness is much more than an acute awareness; it is the process of becoming aware, finding the purpose of our consciousness, and building morals and intelligence from that awareness that entangles those who search for answers in a web of utter confusion. In beginning my search for the understanding of consciousness, I chose to look into the thoughts and beliefs of Karl Marx and Jean-Paul Sartre. Marx and Sartre are similar in their philosophy in that…show more content…
Starting with Sartre’s existentialist point of view, consciousness is defined as being-for-itself. When we are for-itself, we recognize our consciousness, but also understand that we are incomplete (SparkNotes Editors, 2005). This notion of being-for-itself is what makes clear Sartre’s belief that existence proceeds essence; we aren’t born with innate traits, but rather, we create our consciousness. We are free to choose how we will interpret our surroundings, what we will believe, and what type of personality we wish to have in accordance to those beliefs and interpretations. Sartre further explains that this freedom comes with heavy responsibility. Once we make a choice, we cannot make excuses for ourselves or put the blame on someone or something else if the choice turns sour or ends up being faulty; when we accept the freedom, we accept the full responsibility, too. If we fail to take up this responsibility and live dishonestly about inevitabilities, such as death, or possibilities, we are living in “bad faith”, as Sartre says. On the other hand, to live in good faith is to understand and acknowledge that control of the outside world is not in our hands, yet to still take the responsibility and freedom of choices that we have over ourselves. Living nobly in good faith may be what is troubling about existentialism to some people, especially those who are religious. I believe that Sartre feels that humans are innately good and have the
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