UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Authentic existence : its individual and social dimensions Green, Claire Catherine


The aim of this thesis is to provide an explication and analysis of the existential concept of authentic existence, through an examination of Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Buber. It is primarily Sartre's treatment of authenticity, only implicit in his writings, which this thesis seeks both to make explicit and to defend. The positions of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Buber are each used to compare or contrast with key aspects of Sartre's concept of authentic existence, in order to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the Sartrean position. Sartre's concept of individual authenticity rests upon an ethics designed to liberate the individual from living in 'bad faith' by means of a reflective comprehension of the nature of human reality. It is an ethics of self-recovery or authentic existence, having as its ideal the development of the morally autonomous individual who chooses to take freedom as his ultimate value. Sartre also maintains that authenticity requires that we take the freedom of others, as well as our own, as our goal. At the same time, however, his discussion of relations with others in Being and Nothingness is a profoundly negative one, which contends that conflict is the original meaning of 'being-for-others'. It will be argued that Sartre's theory of groups in Critique of Dialectical Reason provides an account of how positive social relations are indeed possible within the parameters of his ontology. The theory of groups thus renders intelligible that aspect of his concept of authentic existence which requires of us common action on behalf of the freedom of all. Finally, Sartre's sociopolitical ideal, or that towards which authentic action is ultimately directed, is identified as a 'direct democracy'. Such a community would be the concrete embodiment of a free society of disalienated individuals mutually choosing to promote each other's freedom.

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