This article is about why moral praxis matters, and how it matters.
My textual focus is Sartre’s unpublished and undelivered 1965
Cornell Lectures on ‘Morality and History’. In these Lectures, Sartre
presents his mature understanding of moral praxis with a degree of
systematicity not found elsewhere in his writings on the topic. Staying
close to the idiom of the lectures, then, I discuss the materiality of
the ‘ethical normative,’ and the historical efficacy of ‘moral conducts’.
The discussion moves from a phenomenological account of
normativity, temporality, and creativity, to a dialectical account of
their generative interaction, which Sartre names, somewhat
ambiguously, ‘ethos’. Sartre’s descriptions and analyses paint a picture
of ethos as manifest through moral praxis. Moral praxis exists where
ethical exigencies are taken up across time through creative invention,
and ethos, as manifest moral praxis, results (for good or ill) in a
transformation of the practical field.