L13_SartreEthics - PHI 310 Lecture 13: Sartres Ethics....

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PHI 310 Lecture 13: Sartre’s Ethics. Brief Summary. Note: generally, ethical theories attempt to justify ethical principles. They begin by presenting some premises about what humans are, do, or desire , and then attempt to argue from that claim to conclusions about what humans ought to be, do, or desire. Scholars believe that the main reason Sartre had such a difficult time developing an ethical theory is that his view on the human condition and especially on the natural dispositions of human beings did not give him the premises he needed to reach normative conclusions consistent with his own ethical preferences. The Notebooks for an Ethics is a special work devoted to existential ethics. Sartre worked on the book for more than a decade, and the manuscript reached enormous proportions. Sartre, however, became dissatisfied with the result for various reasons and abandoned the manuscript. It was first published in 1983, three years after the author’s death. [The essay, A New, Authentic Way of Being Oneself is a part of the Notebooks. ] Sartre’s Notebooks for an Ethics reinforces the suggestion in Existentialism as a Humanism that the basis for ethical judgment is not merely the freedom and contingency of human existence but that freedom and contingency as comprehended on the plane of authenticity. The main emphasis is thus put on “radical conversion”, on becoming authentic. Authenticity is one of the most controversial topics that has captured the attention of some influential contemporary thinkers. In this age of the 'death of God', the attention is focused on man. Today, "where humanity is left without any 'pillars of fire' to guide its way, is the cultural and intellectual background for the emergence of the search for authenticity." Thinkers on authenticity are diverse in their explication of this topic. Nevertheless, they all agree in principle that a positive definition of authenticity would be self-nullifying. Authenticity defines itself as lacking any definition. It is pathos of incessant change, as opposed to a passive subordination to one particular ethics. Thinkers of authenticity tend to call into question and eventually replace conventional with unorthodox concepts of truth. In Sartre, authenticity is discussed vis-à-vis freedom. At the core of Sartrean thought is an idea of extreme freedom. It is inferred from the stand of atheistic Existentialists that "if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and that this being is man, or, as Heidegger says, human reality." The precedence of existence over essence ultimately resolves in the negation of human nature. This same negation endows man with the freedom to make himself. Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. He is nothing else than the summation of his free actions. However, we cannot think of freedom without
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This note was uploaded on 04/20/2010 for the course PHI 310 taught by Professor Bykova during the Spring '10 term at N.C. State.

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L13_SartreEthics - PHI 310 Lecture 13: Sartres Ethics....

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