Sartre's Ethics of Engagement (book review) T. Storm Heter

210112: this is a later later addition: just read Morris on Sartre, which deliberately does not use terms and jargon from the man, one of the most accessible treatments I have read, also places him alongside Merleau-Ponty in focusing on the body. this remains a five...


this is a later addition: just read webber- which seems to argue against some translations, interpretations, assertions, of this text. maybe i have to read it again. or learn to read french. this remains coherent and certainly persuasive, but i guess i will have to wait for the next book that synthesizes these two... i am patient. this remains five...


first review: this is a very good ethical rehabilitation of existentialism, using some texts unfinished and some under-examined, to assert sartre did pursue some understanding of ethics consistent with his original insights. there is possibly nothing new here. there is definitely something new by way of interpretation, which of course must be argued, must be directly contrary to other readings, to sartre's own dismissal of ethical or moral language...


because he cannot help it: in tone, in very words chosen, sartre creates an ethics of virtue. the value of 'authenticity', the vice of 'bad faith', the precedence of authentic intersubjectivity that renders concepts- such as i struggled with in moving on from sartre- of the sincere murderer, the true torturer, obviously incompatible with recognition, respect, caring, of true existentialist thought. sartre's focus on 'situation', possibility, ontological freedom perhaps overemphatic and excessive versus practical freedom, these are embedded in sartre, even if these thoughts are too often buried in absolute claims. sartre of latter work is drafted to argue against sartre of earlier work. sartre himself is repudiated, such as his insistence on radical, absolute, freedom of the self, rather than coercion in real life political relationships.


intersubjectivity is the core, recognition is the technique, to overcome the adversarial, eternal, existential conflict of looking dominance and looked-at subjection. there is this simple movement from hegel's master/slave dialectic to the shared, egalitarian, gaze of friendship. there is the refusal of kantian language and concepts of universals, imperatives, essences, and instead the factual, immediate, relationship. the actual, the real, over the conceptual, the imagined. no abstractions, however ontologically pleasant, are up to use in all situations...


and so i enjoyed this so much i might read sartre again. i certainly am pleased that someone has examined, argued, asserted 'sartrean ethics' in the intersubjective world. i am heartened this ethics can be seen as useful basis for mutual, civil, democratic, large or small society. follow existentialism far enough and it will reveal an ethics that has no need of exterior imposition by faiths secular or religious...

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