Freedom and Egoism in The Ethics of Ambiguity

Essay completed 2 November 2016

At this point in our class, any reconciliation between morality and existentialism seems impossible to me. If everything is subjective, how can anyone establish ethical imperatives? Why would anyone feel any obligation to others if individuals are free to determine how they live? In her 1947 work The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir confronts these questions as she considers how to approach some form of ethical process even in the midst of existentialism’s rejection of inherent moralities. Continue reading “Freedom and Egoism in The Ethics of Ambiguity”

What is to be Done: Responses to Determinism in Notes from Underground

Essay completed 12 October 2016

In Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky is responding to the idea of rational egoism with the character of the Underground Man. The Underground Man is unable to justify his motivations for acting in light of the principle of rational egoism, which holds that the motivations of all human behavior can be traced back to self-interest. The utopian intellectuals to whom Dostoevsky is responding in the novel believe that eventually humanity can eliminate all crime from society. Under rational egoism, human transgression does not come from evil or sinfulness because all actions can be traced back to social pressures or injustices. There is no reason to punish or take revenge, as people are not responsible for their actions. This idea consumes the Underground Man leading him to agonize over the proper response to a life bound by determinism. Continue reading “What is to be Done: Responses to Determinism in Notes from Underground”