Sartre's Existentialist Ethics in the Era of Trump
How will history remember 2017? Will it be remembered as the year of Trump or as the year of resistance to Trump? Bowman and Stone claim that it’s up to us.
Compare 2017 with the year 1944 in France. Is 1944 remembered by its collaborationist president Pierre Laval or by France’s resistance to Nazi occupation – a struggle in which many died? The answer is today clear. It was resistance that came to characterize 1944 in France – despite extensive collaboration with German occupation.
For guidance after fascism’s defeat, France turned to resistant philosophers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre died in 1980. But in 1945, as if addressing us in 2017, he told a victorious Paris: “Tomorrow, after my death, men may choose to impose fascism, while others may be cowardly or distraught enough to let them get away with it. Fascism will then become humanity’s truth, and so much the worse for us. In reality, things will be what men have chosen them to be.”
Existentialism is the philosophy of freedom. This means that its ethics is chosen. Bowman and Stone, students of Sartre’s second ethics of the mid-1960s, will give a sartrean account of the options facing moral agents in 2017 as Trump’s militarized cabinet takes power - again raising the threat of war.
The talk will focus on the notion of “integral humanity.” It was developed by Sartre in the mid-1960s in the still-unpublished 1964 Rome lecture, titled “Morality and History.” To what extent does “integral humanity” illuminate the choices facing us in 2017? Bowman and Stone propose to stimulate discussion of this question.
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