Existential dialogue 15: existence and essence, which is first?

existence and essence

Simone: Aurelius, come here, we would like to ask you something …

Aurelius: hurry, then, I have a soul in need to counselling and I’m afraid it will succumb to evil if I delay too long.

Simone: well, that’s what we want to talk about. We wonder, between existence and essence, who is first? and can we really escape our destiny. For example, do you believe that your intervention will be able to change the order of things if it is not already in the order of things? As far as we are concerned, are we determined to develop our feminine nature because we were born that way?

Aurelius: but what bizarre questions, Simone! It is your actions that define who you are because God made you free to choose! Isn’t what your friend Jean-Paul said, that between existence and essence, the first precedes the other? Isn’t what also allows you to choose between good or bad?

Simone: if you say that we are created free, don’t you see it’s a paradox? It means we are doomed to be free. It means we have a fate that makes us act in a predetermined way even when we think we act freely.

Aurelius: don’t you love who you are?

Simone: yes, but we feel that our deep nature prevents us from changing and locks us in a role. Because we are of a feminine nature, it leads us to act in a certain way. You who are an angel, you are meant to help and advise and that is what you do. Socrates walks and asks questions, that’s who he is. Niccolò is hiding and unreliable. Baruch plays the wise. It’s as if their choices are limited by who they are. So, do we all have a role that we must play and that we sometimes hate…?

Aurelius: hold on here my dears, I love what I do and I can’t help but love it.

Simone: that’s exactly what we mean, you can’t be different from what you are. In your case, this may suit you …

Aurelius: yes, that suits me perfectly because to be happy is to understand your nature and to accomplish it.

Simone:… but for others who find themselves imperfect or mean or who would like to experiment with new identities, they can’t change anything. They suffer from it and it is as if this suffering strengthens them in their wickedness or their unfulfilled desire to be different.

Aurelius: come on, what are you saying, redemption is offered to all!

Simone: Aurelius, your stubbornness in keeping ready-made answers is also your answer. Because you are not like us, you cannot understand what we mean. It just shows that you cannot escape your destiny. Our actions define us in life, yet they are defined a priori by our essence.

Aurelius: so why did you ask me these questions?

Simone: you are supposed to know about divine purposes, we thought you could have enlightened us.

Aurelius: to ask them is wanting to know more than you need to, dear Simone. I advise you to accept who you are.

Simone (between them): he won’t tell us anything, it’s not worth it. (To Aurelius): alright, Aurelius, we’re not holding you back anymore, have a nice day.

Aurelius: you too, my friends, and remember that your generosity is your charm; keep it alive, that is the main thing.

Simone (between them): for an angel, he is not very bright; we should have asked Baruch.

Aurelius (to himself): I will pray for them; if they no longer listen to their hearts, they will become increasingly unsure of what to do and they’ll be unhappy.


Want to think a little more? See, for example, Existentialism is a humanism where Sartre explains how what we do determines who we are.

Want to help improve these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.

Want to know more about the tastes of Aurelius and Simone? Their favorite books are in the domain library.

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