From Jean-Paul Sartre to Critical Existentialism

Notes for an Existentialist Ethical Theory

in Sartre Studies International
Maria Russo Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Italy

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This article examines Sartre's works in which his attempt to find an existentialist ethics is evident. Most of the clues to this project are to be found in texts published posthumously since during his lifetime he never managed to fulfil the promise he made at the end of Being and Nothingness. It will be argued that this existentialist ethics owes a strong debt to Kantian philosophy, even if it confronts more directly the historical dynamics of violence and oppression. Despite the fact that this project is unfinished and only sketched out, it is possible to ask what Sartre's direction of development would have been, pointing to the outline of a normative theory, Critical Existentialism, that could have its place in contemporary ethical debate.

Contributor Notes

Maria Russo is lecturer in moral philosophy at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, where she teaches media ethics and film and philosophy. She is a visiting fellow at UWE Bristol, vice-director of the Italian journal Studi Sartriani, and a member of the International Research Centre for European Culture and Politics. She has published two books in Italian and several articles in English on Sartre and existentialism. ORCID:

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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