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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

20th Century French Existentialists: Simone de Beauvoir & Jean Paul Sartre

Beauvoir and Sartre are two famous French Existentialists from the 20th century. Their lives made interesting press and their and philosophical writings caught on in America during the post-WWII period like wildfire. Surveying 20th century existentialism makes for an interesting study of the role of rationalism and its morphing forms throughout the transition to postmodern thought.

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Simone de Beauvoir:

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's readings:

John Paul Sartre:



Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: To understand the basic components of 20th century French existentialism via a discussion of ethics and freedom. After completing the assigned readings, reviewing the resources above and attempting the guide questions below, you should be able to:

  1. describe the existentialist position on absolutist ethical systems
  2. explain the notion of moral relativism in the context of the existentialist project
  3. identify the Kantian roots of Beauvoir's ethical position
  4. explain the difference between Sartre' ontological sense of freedom and the ordinary definition
  5. explain how meaning and values are generated under the existentialist banner

Sartre & Beauvoir:

Simone de Beauvoir: On Freedom and Morality

  1. How do we assert our freedom?
  2. Why ought we to will freedom for others?

John Paul Sartre: Freedom and Responsibility

  1. What does Sartre mean when he states that "we are condemned to be free"?
  2. Why is there no "non-human situation"?
  3. Sartre claims that world events such as war also belong to us in that we choose how we will react to them. Why is it important to assume responsibility for these events on an individual and cultural level?
  4. Explain what Sartre means by the term "facticity."

Smartboard Notes from Week 12 Lectures:



Sartre 2Sartre 3


Sartre 4





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