Towards an Existential Ethics

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Title: Towards an Existential Ethics
Authors: Ó Madagáin, Caoimhín
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Date: 2020
Online since: 2022-05-05T15:35:36Z
Abstract: Most people live under some class of legal system. The laws flowing from these systems shape not just society, but individuals’ lives and behaviour. While some people do break the law, most people, most of the time, comply. There are various explanations of legal compliance; fear of punishment, fairness, and the common good, to name a few. However, this dissertation suggests that most people comply in order to escape the overwhelming freedom and responsibility of the individual’s existential condition. Adopting Sartre’s ontology of the individual as For-Itself, I suggest that most individuals live in bad faith as what I refer to as the Law-Abiding Citizen. The Law-Abiding Citizen attempts to hide from their existential freedom and responsibility in what I refer to as the Everyday World. However, freedom is inescapable. Bad Faith will always fail. If freedom is inescapable, perhaps the individual ought to embrace it and attempt to live authentically. An authentic individual, within the Everyday World, will likely be labelled as an Outlaw, as a threat to the system. From within the Everyday World, an authentic community, which would result if each individual were to act authentically, does not sound like an appealing place to live. However, if we understand that the authentic individual is labelled as Outlaw through the lens of bad faith, and we show that the individual is not as radically free as Sartre sometimes suggests, we can move towards an existential ethics that supports an authentic community. This dissertation weaves together the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, primarily their respective Being and Nothingness and The Ethics of Ambiguity. The core of the work will focus on Sartre’s concepts of the For-Itself, bad faith, and authenticity. Sartre and Beauvoir heavily influenced each other. However, reading their work separately can leave the reader feeling at a loose end. Sartre appears far too radical in certain respects and Beauvoir appears to have built an ethics on a foundation which she never fully explains. Read together, they balance each other out, forging a plausible path towards an existential ethics.
Type of material: Master Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Philosophy
Qualification Name: M.Litt.
Copyright (published version): 2020 the Author
Keywords: ExistentialEthicsSartreBeauvoir
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
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Appears in Collections:Philosophy Theses

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