Title

Political Aspects of Existentialist Thought:Problems of Individuality.

Authors

Paul Seeley

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2002

Abstract

The ethics of the Existentialists, a twentieth century philosophical school of thought, focused intently upon the relationship between the individual and society at large. This project, consisting of two independent papers, details the philosophical thought of two existentialist thinkers: Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. Heidegger's (implied) ethics focus upon an individual's attempt to separate from the mass of 'the they.' His main philosophical text was Being and Time , published in 1927. This book's pursuit of individual autonomy seems totally opposed to Heidegger's political decision to join the Nazi Party in 1933. My summer research looked for, and found two similarities between Being and Time and Nazi ideology in the areas of elitism and theories regarding time. However, most other areas seem decidedly antifascist and cannot explain Heidegger's political decision to become a Nazi and keep the book from being discounted because of the 'Nazi issue.' Sartre's philosophy was mainly composed in his two works: Being and Nothingness and The Critique of Dialectical Reason , but he expressed his philosophical beliefs in his vast collection of literary works. This paper looks at five of these works (two novels: Nausea and The Age of Reason and three plays: No Exit , Dirty Hands , and The Flies ) and examines how each work expresses a particular philosophical idea related to Sartre's beliefs regarding individual responsibility. By investigating the literary expressions of the philosophical doctrines, a complete picture of Sartre's philosophy emerges which is more accessible than the philosophy alone.

Advisor

Roger Boesche

Department

politics

Support

Support provided by:Ford Research Fellowship

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