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Existentialist ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L024-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Central to existentialism is a radical doctrine of individual freedom and responsibility. On the basis of this, writers such as Sartre have offered an account of the nature of morality and also advanced proposals for moral conduct. Important in that account are the claims that (a) moral values are ‘created’ rather than ‘discovered’, (b) moral responsibility is more extensive than usually assumed, and (c) moral life should not be a matter of following rules. Existentialist proposals for conduct derive from the notion of authenticity, understood as ‘facing up’ to one’s responsibility and not ‘fleeing’ it in ‘bad faith’. Authenticity, many argue, entails treating other people so as to encourage a sense of freedom on their part, although there is disagreement as to the primary forms such treatment should take. Some have argued that we promote a sense of freedom through commitment to certain causes; others that this is best achieved through personal relationships.

Citing this article:
Cooper, David E.. Existentialist ethics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L024-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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