Sartre and the Moral Life

C. W. Robbins

At the time of writing L'Être et le Néant, Sartre intended both to give a new account of human experience and action, and, subsequently, to offer a ‘new morality’. It is clear that he wished to keep the two enterprises separate, the former not entailing the latter (720:625–626) but also that they would together form an integrated Weltanschauung, as he puts it. But Sartre's philosophical account of human life cannot, I shall argue, be integrated with any morality whatsoever, since his account really entails the impossibility of the moral life. It is not surprising that doubts about what remains of morality, once the Sartrean picture has been accepted, are prominent in the last pages of L'Être et le Néant; I intend to show that they deserve more serious attention than some commentators have thought, and that the major problem over Sartre's moral philosophy is not the interpretation of authenticity but the investigation of his account of moral choice.