Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 5-20-1971


Many contemporary critics of ethics have failed to consider Jean-Paul Sartre's Existential Philosophy as capable of yielding a normative value theory. Existential Philosophy in general has been accused of lacking any ground for distinguishing between the worth of one project over the worth of another. Most critics of contemporary psychoanalysis have failed to consider Jean-Paul Sartre's Existential Psychoanalysis as capable of supporting therapeutic recommendation. Sartre's Existential Psychoanalysis has been accused of lacking any ground for traditional therapy. This study attempts to show exactly how these two problems are related. It offers a solution to both.

An analysis of Being and Nothingness reveals that Sartre's major contribution to Existential Philosophy is itself an ethical concern. Being and Nothingness is an existentialist ethics. But Existential Ethics is not an ethics in the traditional sense. It is not normative. In an existential ethics, the choice to be ethical or not must remain outside the obligation to choose any particular ethics. The choice to be ethical is not itself imperative. It is a choice that one, if he chooses to justify his life, is continually making and can at any time rebuke. Free choice is the meaning of the human condition and the foundation of Existential Ethics.

Existential Psychoanalysis is a part of Existential Ethics because it is a part of the ethical concern that is man. Man is in-the-world as the maker of values, and Existential Psychoanalysis is a tool at his disposal. It can help him understand the meaning and value of his life.

The point of view of Existential Psychoanalysis is established preontologically in the cogito. It is non-judgmental. And it is this non-judgmental point of view that gives Existential Psychoanalysis a ground for therapy. Sartre's Existential Philosophy has shown that we are all engaged in the same fundamental and universal project, the search for being. Existential Ethics and Existential Psychoanalysis are united in this search.

As Existential Ethics is not normative, Existential Psychoanalysis is not therapeutic in a traditional sense. What has traditional been the patient-therapist relationship in Empirical Psychoanalysis becomes, in Existential Psychoanalysis, a person to person encounter. The fundamental project of man in Being and Nothingness serves both as a ground for Existential Ethics and as a ground for therapy. It is through this common ground for human relatings that empathy is shown to emerge as a possibility of man.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Paul Frederic Schmidt

Second Committee Member

Hubert Griggs Alexander

Third Committee Member

Howard Nelson Tuttle

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