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Existence precedes essence, according to Sartre, meaning that persons form themselves by living and cannot be
seen via predefined and a priori categories, a “essence”. The individual’s actual life constitutes their “true
essence,” as opposed to an arbitrary essence attributed by others to define them. Humans create their own values
and give meaning to their lives.  Aristotle and Aquinas maintained that essence predates individual
existence. [required] Although Sartre created the expression, existentialist thinkers like as Heidegger and
Kierkegaard thought along similar lines:
Style is the subjective thinker’s way of communication. His shape must be as varied as the contrasts he unites.
The systematic eins, zwei, drei is an abstract form that must always fail when applied to the concrete. As the
subjective thinker is tangible, so must his form be concretely dialectical. He is a poet, an ethicist, and a
dialectician. His form is none of these. His shape must be tied to existence, and he must have access to the
poetic, ethical, dialectical, and theological. The subjective thinker has just one setting—existence—and has
nothing to do with locales and such. The setting is not a poetic fairyland, nor is it set in England, nor is historical
accuracy a concern. The context is the inwardness of human being; the concretion is the interrelationship of
existence-categories. History is width.
— Sren Kierkegaard (Hong pp. 357–358)
In other words, anybody may desire to be anything. Such a yearning, however, is inauthentic, or what Sartre
would term “poor faith” un existence. Instead, the word should mean that individuals are defined by their acts
and are accountable for them. A cruel person is one who behaves harshly towards others. They are accountable
for their new identities (cruel persons). Rather than their DNA or human nature being to fault.
“Man first exists, meets himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards,” Sartre declared in his
speech Existentialism is a Humanism. A person may choose to behave differently, to be a decent person instead
of a cruel one. 
“An essence is the relational attribute of having a group of elements organized in such a manner that they
collectively conduct some activity,” writes Jonathan Webber.
: 3  For example, a house’s purpose is to keep out severe weather, which is why it has walls and a roof.
Humans are distinct from houses in that they are free to choose their own purpose, thereby shaping their
essence; thus, their existence precedes their essence. : 1–4
Sartre believes in a radical conception of freedom: our projects have no weight or inertia unless we endorse
 According to Simone de Beauvoir, various factors, grouped under the term sedimentation, resist attempts to
change our life direction. Sedimentations are the result of past choices and can be changed by making different
choices now, but changes take time. Until the transformation is complete, they affect the agent’s evaluative view
on the world. : 5, 9, 66
Sartre’s existentialism was founded on Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927). In the Letter on Humanism,
Heidegger implied that Sartre misunderstood him for his own subjectivism, and that he did not mean that actions
trump being so long as they are not reflected upon.  It is important to note that Heidegger believes that
Sartre has simply switched the roles traditionally attributed to essence and existence without interrogating these
concepts and their history.