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“Existentialism and Human Emotion,” examined Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist outlook on ethics. Sartre (1905-1980) was a French philosopher who stressed the significance of human freedom and questioned the role of external theories and causes in determining ethical decisions. In your Discussion Post for this week, make sure you do the following 3 things:Describe Sartre’s conception of existentialist freedomExplain how the story of the undecided young man illustrates Sartre’s viewsCritically assess Sartre’s account of human freedom by giving a contemporary example that either confirms or challenges his views.it should not be more than 530 words the content is downbelow
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Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) may have been the only existential philosopher to accept the label of
existentialist. In this excerpt drawn from his defining statement of that movement, Existentialism and
Human Emotion , Sartre recounts the tale of a young man who comes to him for advice during the
war. His only sibling has been killed and he is trying to decide between joining the resistance and
staying home to take care of his mother. The man wants to do the right thing. How should he
decide? If Sartre is correct, ethical theories can be used to reinforce either decision. In the end,
people are, as Sartre puts it, “forlorn.” There can be no objective basis for our moral resolutions. We
must simply choose, and take responsibility for our choices.
E XISTENTIALISM AND H UMAN E MOTION If existence really does precede essence, there is
no explaining things away by reference to a fixed and given human nature. In other words, there
is no determinism, man is free, man is freedom. On the other hand, if God does not exist, we
find no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conduct. So, in the bright realm of
values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone, with no excuses.
That is the idea I shall try to convey when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned,
because he did not create himself, yet, in other respects is free; because, once thrown into the
world, he is responsible for everything he does. The existentialist does not believe in the power
of passion. He will never agree that a sweeping passion is a ravaging torrent which fatally leads a
man to certain acts and is therefore an excuse. He will interpret the omen to suit himself.
Therefore, he thinks that man, with no support and no aid, is condemned every moment to
invent man. Ponge, in a very fine article, has said, “Man is the future of man.” That’s exactly it.
But if it is taken to mean that this future is recorded in heaven, that God sees it, then it is false,
because it would really no longer be a future. If it is taken to mean that, whatever a man may be,
there is a future to be forged, a virgin future before him, then this remark is sound. But then we
are forlorn. To give you an example which will enable you to understand forlornness better, I
shall cite the case of one of my students who came to see me under the following circumstances:
his father was on bad terms with his mother, and, moreover, was inclined to be a
collaborationist; his older brother had been killed in the German offensive of 1940, and the
young man, with somewhat immature but generous feelings, wanted to avenge him. His mother
lived alone with him, very much upset by the half-treason of her husband and the death of her
older son; the boy was her only consolation. The boy was faced with the choice of leaving for
England and joining the Free French Forces—that is, leaving his mother behind—or remaining
with his mother and helping her to carry on. He was fully aware that the woman lived only for
him and that his going-off—and perhaps his death—would plunge her into despair. He was also
aware that every act that he did for his mother’s sake was a sure thing, in the sense that it was
helping her to carry on, whereas every effort he made toward going off and fighting was an
uncertain move which might run aground and prove completely useless; for example, on his way
to England he might, while passing through Spain, be detained indefinitely in a Spanish camp;
he might reach England or Algiers and be stuck in an office at a desk job. As a result, he was
faced with two very different kinds of action: one, concrete, immediate, but concerning only one
individual; the other concerned an incomparably vaster group, a national collectivity, but for
that very reason was dubious, and might be interrupted en route. And, at the same time, he was
wavering between two kinds of ethics. On the one hand, an ethics of sympathy, of personal
devotion; on the other, a broader ethics, but one whose efficacy was more dubious. He had to
choose between the two. Who could help him choose? Christian doctrine? No. Christian doctrine
says, “Be charitable, love your neighbor, take the more rugged path, etc., etc.” But which is the
more rugged path? Whom should he love as a brother? The fighting man or his mother? Which
does the greater good, the vague act of fighting in a group, or No book of ethics can tell him. The
Kantian ethics says, “Never treat any person as a means, but as an end.” Very well, if I stay with
my mother, I’ll treat her as an end and not as a means; but by virtue of this very fact, I’m
running the risk of treating the people around me who are fighting, as means; and, conversely, if
Running head: IRANIAN WOMEN SHOULD HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS
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I go to join those who are fighting, I’ll be treating them as an end, and, by doing that, I run the
risk of treating my mother as a means. If values are vague, and if they are always too broad for
the concrete and specific case that we are considering, the only thing left for us is to trust our
instincts. That’s what this young man tried to do; and when I saw him, he said, “In the end,
feeling is what counts. I ought to choose whichever pushes me in one direction. If I feel that I
love my mother enough to sacrifice everything else for her—my desire for vengeance, for action,
for adventure—then I’ll stay with her. If, on the contrary, I feel that my love for my mother isn’t
enough, I’ll leave.” But how is the value of a feeling determined? What gives his feeling for his
mother value? Precisely the fact that he remained with her. I may say that I like so-and-so well
enough to sacrifice a certain amount of money for him, but I may say so only if I’ve done it. I
may say “I love my mother well enough to remain with her” if I have remained with her. The
only way to determine the value of this affection is, precisely, to perform an act which confirms
and defines it. But, since I require this affection to justify my act, I find myself caught in a
vicious circle. On the other hand, Gide has well said that a mock feeling and a true feeling are
almost indistinguishable; to decide that I love my mother and will remain with her, or to remain
with her by putting on an act, amount somewhat to the same thing. In other words, the feeling is
formed by the acts one performs; so, I cannot refer to it in order to act upon it. Which means
that I can neither seek within myself the true condition which will impel me to act, nor apply to a
system of ethics for concepts which will permit me to act. You will say, “At least, he did go to a
teacher for advice.” But if you seek advice from a priest, for example, you have chosen this
priest; you already knew, more or less, just about what advice he was going to give you. In other
words, choosing your adviser is involving yourself. The proof of this is that if you are a Christian,
you will say, “Consult a priest.” But some priests are collaborating, some are just marking time,
some are resisting. Which to choose? If the young man chooses a priest who is resisting or
collaborating, he has already decided on the kind of advice he’s going to get. Therefore, in
coming to see me he knew the answer I was going to give him, and I had only one answer to give:
“You’re free, choose, that is, invent.” No general the meaning they have. When I was a prisoner, I
knew a rather remarkable young man who was a Jesuit. He had entered the Jesuit order in the
following way: he had had a number of very bad breaks; in childhood, his father died, leaving
him in poverty, and he was a scholarship student at a religious institution where he was
constantly made to feel that he was being kept out of charity; then, he failed to get any of the
honors and distinctions that children like; later on, at about eighteen, he bungled a love affair;
finally, at twenty-two, he failed in military training, a childish enough matter, but it was the last
straw. This young fellow might well have felt that he had botched everything. It was a sign of
something, but of what? He might have taken refuge in bitterness or despair. But he very wisely
looked upon all this as a sign that he was not made for secular triumphs, and that only the
triumphs of religion, holiness, and faith were open to him. He saw the hand of God in all this,
and so he entered the order. Who can help seeing that he alone decided what the sign meant?
Some other interpretation might have been drawn from this series of setbacks; for example, that
he might have done better to turn carpenter or revolutionist. Therefore, he is fully responsible
for the interpretation. Forlornness implies that we ourselves choose our being. Forlornness and
anguish go together.

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