Semester of Graduation

Spring 2018


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The existentialist ethics of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir offers a unique perspective that challenges a traditional, normative picture that has been dominant throughout the history of ethical thinking and continues to dominate in contemporary discourse. The perspective in question refuses to rely on essence to ground its positions, opting instead to focus on the contingency of the subject and the interpersonal as being fundamental in the invention of moral values and ethical practices. This thesis looks to – in the first chapter – explore the relationship between the subjective and the interpersonal through a discussion of Heidegger’s Mitsein and the “being-for-others” through the phenomenology of le regard. Doing so will enable us to clarify what is demanded of one in their conduct in a communal context. In the second chapter, we will endeavor to understand what constraints we have on how we are to respond to these demands. And finally, in the third chapter, we will characterize literature’s capacity to facilitate suitable responses to that demand. Primarily, I will seek to explore engagement, and argue that being engaged is the appropriate, “authentic”, mode of being for the invention of ethics and values. This requires offering a picture of what it means to be engaged and will therefore require us to direct our attention to what Sartre and Beauvoir think literature is capable of accomplishing. My hope is that this discussion is useful in our deliberations about contemporary political and ethical issues, specifically, the difficulties we face in communication and communion between partisan perspectives.



Committee Chair

Raffoul, Francois