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Transcript
Existentialism: Ethics of
Authenticity
Dr. Schmid, Ph.D.
Philosophy and Religion, UNCW
Key Concepts:
ATHEISM – AUTHENTICITY – CHOICE
BEINGS
CONSCIOUSNESS/BEING
FOR ITSELF
THINGS/BEING IN ITSELF
TRUE vs. FALSE CONCEPTS
OF REALITY/MORALITY
True: ATHEISM
“Existence precedes
essence.”
Self-deceiving: THEISM
“Essence precedes
existence.”
REASON FOR ACTION =
CHOICE
AUTHENTICITY
INAUTHENTICITY
(following ‘choice’) vs.
(following ‘duty’)
EXISTENTIAL TRUTH AND
MORALITY
TWO FORMS OF FREEDOM
HUMAN CONDITION
SELF-CHOSEN
vs.
RADICAL FREEDOM:
BAD FAITH (OTHERDETERMINED)
MORAL FREEDOM:
to define good and evil
(moral subjectivity)
to act in accord with
your idea of good or evil
SELF-AS-PROJECT
GUILT, CONSCIENCE
(man is radically free)
(man is subject)
Where does ethics come from?
• Essentialists say that God
created man
• Thus man = an artifact,
meant to perform certain
functions
• Morality = to do what you
were made to do, e.g.
procreate, worship God,
obey moral rules
• Sartre: this = myth and selfdeception
Where does ethics come from?
• Existentialists say:
“Existence precedes essence.”
• Man = an emergent reality,
free to define his own ends
and rules of living
• Each individual has the right
to redefine morality himself;
there is no ‘objective’ ethics
• Sartre: this = existential
truth and authenticity
Existentialism
• Provides no universal moral theory
• Conscious agents both
– act according to their concepts of good and evil, and
– must define those concepts for themselves—have both ‘moral’
and ‘existential’ or ‘radical’ freedom
– “Existentialist Imperative” = do that which you affirm as valid for
all men [this is your assertion, not that of “reason”]
• Values autonomy and authenticity
• Rejects other theories:
• Theories that are based on authority
• Theories that are theistic/essentialist
• Theories that are “objective” or universalist or “rationalist”
“Existentialist Imperative”?
• When we say man chooses
himself, we mean every one of
us must choose himself; but
we also mean that in choosing
for himself he chooses for all
men. Our responsibility thus
concerns mankind as a whole.
I am responsible for myself
and for all men, for in
choosing what I value, I am
creating a certain image of
man as I would have him to
be.
The Gauguin Dilemma
In 1885, the French artist, Paul Gauguin, made the existential choice
to abandon his wife and family to go to the South Seas and paint. His
family was left destitute, but he created some of the greatest art in the
Western tradition.
Was this a morally indefensible choice? What would Kant say?
Sartre? Bentham or Mill? Does it matter than he did become great?
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
Radical Choice?
• Sartre argues ethics is founded on
ultimate values which cannot be
rationally justified.
• As a result, our most basic choice is
not (a) between good and evil, but (b)
how we will define good and evil.
• His example: a young man in France in
1940, who must choose between (i)
staying at home and caring for his
mother, or (ii) joining the Free French
forces in England.
• Does this example prove his claim—
that our most basic ethical decisions
are matters of “existential choice,” not
matters of “moral reason”?
Kant vs. Sartre
Kantian Individual
Existential Individual
• Free will
• Responsibility/”respect”
• Human essence = rational
animal
• Morality = self-given laws of
moral reason (Cat Imp)
• Reason reveals
– Scientific universe
– Nothing about God
– Universal moral law
(conscience)
• Free will
• Responsibility/”anguish”
• No human essence = selfdetermining
• Morality = self-given ‘law’ of
existential responsibility
• Reason reveals
– Scientific universe
– Nothing about God
– No universal morality
(anguish)