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Ethical Considerations in Jean-paul Sartre’s Existentialist Philosophy

How do you know what is good? How can you determine what is bad? By arguing his existentialist philosophy, Jean Paul Sartre argues that man possess the freedom to be what he chooses to be. This freedom is not bed of roses, but a thorny path that leads to the realization that life for an existentialist is burdened with responsibility. He needs to constantly define what is ethically sound or morally good for every action because he is burdened with development of his existence, anguish, forlornness and despair. Sartre tries to bring out the ethical plane by which an existentialist list is guided by explaining these qualities as the cornerstone of his existentialist philosophy.

According to Sartre, an existentialist experiences anguish because he is free to exist for himself and is responsible for all men. The existentialist is forlorn because he has to define all values for himself with no help from God or his moral foundation. He also experiences despair because he cannot distinguish between choices that are presented to him. But these foundations have flaws when compared to the derivatives of the ethical planes currently existent in the world.  As far ethics are concerned, I believe Sartre’s existentialism leads to no output of ethical values.

Man has a conscience. The conscience is a vital part of his human nature because it decides which action is good or evil and then aids him to make an appropriate decision. So by human nature, man leans towards the good and keeps away from the evil to avoid the prick of his conscience. How can one verify the existence of a human conscience? It is evident when man is compared to animals and the similarities and differences are seen. Animals are guided by their instinct for their basic necessities such as food, reproduction and protection. While man shares the need of some of these necessities, he has a conscience that enables him to decide the abstract qualities of life. An example that differentiates between an instinct and a conscience can be seen in the necessity for food. A bear needs to food to survive and so does a human, but unlike a bear that devours alone, a human being can consider a fellow human being who does not have food and share it. The instinct stops at the want, but the conscience contains the ability to display kindness to share.

Thus, the evidence of a general human nature is shown by the fact that individuals in all societies have consciences to form strong and binding morals and ethics that are extremely similar. Thus, because men in all societies rely on their consciences for many decisions every day, it can be said that there is human nature. For example, the commandment “Thou shall not kill” is obeyed in all societies as an integral part of the moral code. The uniformity among the societies of the world in keeping this commandment despite their cultural difference indicates that the conscience requires a man to stay away from murder. Thus, it is human nature not to murder (even though many do, and in doing so they breach their consciences). Now Sartre says “there is no human nature” (15). But Sartre is wrong when he concludes that there is no human nature because the uniformity of the human conscience and the existence of various ethical codes to keep it blameless throughout the world is the hallmark of human nature. Now the consciences cannot be developed depending on the environment of a man.  The uniformity of human consciences worldwide, support the fact that the conscience is a whole entity created in man by God. If it were something to be developed, then all would have relative consciences and no similarity would be seen in ethical codes set up worldwide by people from diverse cultures.  Therefore, Sartre’s conclusion about man being nothing at first (15) is false. Man is already in possession of a whole conscience that makes up a vital part if his human nature. Thus I believe that Sartre’s conceptions about human existence and its development in to something is false. The fundamental aspect of a man is his human nature and a significant part of that is his conscience. Since Sartre tries to deny the existence of a human nature, his existentialist philosophy does not lead to any ethical considerations.

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