Jean-Paul Sartre's ethics of authenticity : an analysis and defence.
The elaboration of a Sartrean ethics based upon Sartre' s
ontological treatise Being and Nothingness has been, and still is, a
much debated and controversial issue. Some critics have forcefully
denied that an ethical position can be derived from the notions of
freedom and value which are set forth by Sartre in his early ontology,
on the ground that any attempt at such an ethics ensues in an extreme
subjectivism, irrationalism, and, ultimately, nihilism. Other scholars,
more sympathetic to Sartre's early philosophy, have attempted to
construct a Sartrean ethical theory, but some unresolved issues still
emerge from their readings.
My aim in this dissertation is to defend Sartre's ontology
against the former kind of criticisms, and to highlight and resolve
what is left insufficiently analysed by the second group of scholars.
I will attempt to show, by proposing an original interpretation
of a Sartrean ethics, that Sartre's early ontology provides the ground
for a viable ethics and that the problems of subjectivism and nihilism
find their resolution within Sartre's ontological claims.
I begin by investigating Sartre's philosophical background and
show how his use of HusserI's phenomenology is fundamental in
order to grasp the full meaning and implications of Sartre' s
ontological descriptions. I then analyse closely Sartre's notion of
subjectivity, which provides the key to the elaboration of an ethics
grounded in Being and Nothingness. The pivotal idea of my
interpretation is the distinction between, and inter-relation of, two
levels of discourse, namely, the metaempiricaIJontological and the
empirical/ontic, in terms of which Sartre's claims on subjectivity and
freedom, which are at the basis of his ethics, must be understood. If
this perspective is maintained, I argue, then it is possible to recognize
both the universalistic and the situated! concrete aspects of the ethics