Is Existentialist Authenticity Unethical? De Beauvoir on Ethics, Authenticity and Embodiment

Shabot, Sarah Cohen, & Menschenfreund, Yaki. “Is Existentialist Authenticity Unethical? De Beauvoir on Ethics, Authenticity and Embodiment,” Philosophy Today, 52 (2): 150---156, 2008.


One of the most important problems confronted by existentialist thought clearly appears to be the one referring to the possible contradiction between authenticity and ethics. This problem has not been sufficiently explored in philosophical literature, despite being one of the core issues proposed within existentialist thought. In the following, we, the authors of this essay, shall argue that such an argument- i.e., that existentialism fails to prove a strong link between ethics and authenticity-is misleading, since it is generally built upon two erroneous beliefs concerning existentialism: first, that existentialism fully acknowledges that an authentic decision can be taken from a disembodied position, from a purely rational, detached, unambiguous position and, second, that for existentialism the ethical and the authentic are completely independent entities. There is at least one existentialist perspective from which this argument appears to clearly fail. We shall consider Simone de Beauvoir’s conception of ethics and of the authentic as being one of the existentialist views on authenticity and ethics that most clearly demonstrates why such conception of existentialist ethics and authenticity are mistaken or are at least based on a very narrow view on existentialism.

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