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Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre (1905-1980) was a French philosopher and literary critic who founded modern existentialism. Sartre offers the idea that mankind is fundamentally different from all other objects and species; we create our own functions. Unlike ordinary objects, man comes into existence first and only through experience and suffering, comes to define himself. This notion is famously summarized as "Existence preceded essence". Sartre's views in a way reformulate the basic idea that our actions are not instinct-based, but self-generated. Sartre is the best known and most influential continental philosopher of the 20th century, spawning an entire sub-culture.