Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris, France in 1905 and died in 1980. His approach to Existentialism emphasized the fundamental elements of human freedom. Sartre takes an activist position in regards to freedom. He believes that freedom must be dealt with and accepted. His philosophical approach to Existentialism has brought him into the fame and company of philosophers such as Descartes. Sartre views freedom as unavoidable as he states, " We are condemned to be free." It is our decision to believe if that freedom is to be valued or not, however, the fact remains that being a person is to be free. We do things as a direct result of being free because we have choice. Freedom creates the condition that we are able to analyze the value of that freedom. Sartre says that we are free and we are responsible for our actions. Since we are totally responsible for our actions, we are free but we are condemned because we are not here by our own choosing. .
Sartre's ideas on freedom begin with "existence preceding essence." According to Sartre, if we exist, then we are free. He states that existence will precede essence. Essence, according to Sartre, is the actions we take in life. These actions define who we are. In order to be defined then existence must come first. Sartre says that we are nothing first. Then when we come into existence, we create ourselves through our actions. Once we are defined, then we have an ability to do things and we further define ourselves by what we make of ourselves. Our daily living results in certain choices that make up who we are. We define ourselves through this process and as a result, design ourselves. "In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait." Sartre uses an example of a paper cutter to explain the concept. He says that the paper cutter is designed in a particular way for a specific use. It is used to produce such as making a book.