Let us get philosophical for a moment. Here is a small essay I wrote for a class on existentialism. Just sharing a different side of my multi-layered personality. This may too deep for some people, yet I think it is easy to follow. Enjoy…..or read so your brain melts and your eyes bleed.
Why is incompleteness in a person a good thing?
A hole is an incomplete thing. It has both physical substance and abstract meaning. Yet, these dual meanings cannot exist at the same moment. A person cannot physically hold a hole and display it for viewing as one could with a book. A book can be felt because it exists in a physical sense. A book can be picked up, held, and then thrown across a room. A person can do none of these actions with a hole because it is not physical. It is an abstract description of the absence of a physical object that occupied the space previously. Yet, if the same person who threw the book then fell into a hole in the earth, it would instantly become physical. The person would not state that he fell into an absence of earth. Once the hole begins to affect the physical world it can thus be understood as a physical object. In this sense a hole is an incomplete thing because it is both physical and abstract, while being neither simultaneously.
Sartre claims that, “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself” (Sartre 15). Sartre says that man is nothing, but because we are autonomous beings, we are indeed something. A human has physical form and independent thought, therefore humans must be something. In this sense of “something” we are like a hole. Like holes, humans are incomplete things. Humans exist both in the physical sense (we have a physical form that performs physical actions) and the abstract sense (we have thoughts that define human individuality). Humans make up humanity; while humans can be physically touched, humanity can only be encountered in an abstract sense. The physical human makes up the greater abstract humanity and thus, is incomplete.
The nothingness of humanity for Sartre is because humans define their purpose through their actions. “Man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself” (Sartre 15). For the existentialist, humans are responsible for their actions without influence from outside sources. Sartre asserts that before action we are nothing and each moment after is a quest to become complete. The actions of humans, and their freedom to act, are central ideas in existentialism. Without choice, without freedom of individual choice, humanity would be complete. If every choice is predetermined through foreign influence, then existence would have no purpose. Humans would be complete entities for freedom of choice would be removed. Ignoring the freedom of choice, Sartre could not assert that humans are nothing. Being nothing, empowers humanity to become something.
Existentialism, by claiming man is nothing, charges humanity to become something. This charge is fueled with the freedom to make individual choice and rise from nothingness. “[Existentialism] is the only [theory] which gives man dignity, the only one which does not reduce him to an object” (Sartre 37). Being incomplete assigns this dignity to man. If man were complete, then he would not be able to determine his own outcome. All futures would be a succession of decisions formed from outside sources. This strips man of his dignity, whereas existentialism, claiming man is nothing, grants the ability through purpose to grow from nothingness. A complete man is never in control of his own future. An incomplete man must forge his own future in every moment.
Imagining a fire chief struggling with the decision to send firefighters into a burning building to save trapped civilians is a scenario where the incomplete person triumphs. If the fire chief was a complete person, he would be more akin unto a book than a hole. He would exist without purpose for his purpose would be predetermined. A complete fire chief would not anguish over his decision to place his underlings in peril. Here the fire chief is like Sartre’s military commander (Sartre 20). A complete person would feel no anguish over difficult moral dilemmas. A complete fire chief would know the future of both firefighters and civilians is predetermined and no action he takes can change this outcome; ergo he would feel no anxiety over his choice, because his choice would not be his own. By being incomplete, a fire chief would be forced to weigh all outcomes of his decision, because he would fully understand that his choice is his alone. A fire chief who is aware of all possible outcomes and weigh each outcome before deciding on a choice, would be a better fire chief than the complete fire chief. Thus, a person who is incomplete may face more difficulty and anguish in life by weighing options of choice, but would be better suited to handle the difficult moral dilemmas of life.