Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist, famously wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that if God does not exist, then all is permissible. Jean-Paul Sartre quotes the above passage from Dostoevsky and then writes: This is the starting point of existentialism … we can never explain our actions by reference to a given and immutable human nature … man is free, and man is freedom. If … God does not exist, we will encounter no values or orders that can legitimize our conduct. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us, in the luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. We are left alone and without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. In 3-4 pages, unpack the above quote from Sartre and expand on the way in which Sartre attempts to salvage an ethic of freedom, which he calls a humanism, despite there being no absolutely necessary values anywhere in a god, human nature, traditional beliefs, rationality, natural science, philosophy, logic, emotions, mathematics, etc. Where does he locate the grounds for acting and choosing then, if at all? Why does he think his ethics is optimistic, although anguished, and hopeful despite criticisms? 2. Read Sartres Commentary on The Stranger and summarize why Sartre does not see Meursault as an unambiguously bad (evil, reprehensible) human being, but rather as a sort of modern anti-hero or character-type that is more authentic to the absurdity of life in the modern world than the seemingly more conventional ethical type. Why does Sartre see in Meursault much to embody his own philosophical understanding of human freedom? 3. Proceed in 3-4 more pages to create your own commentary on The Stranger using Simone de Beauvoirs The Ethics of Ambiguity. Are there characters in Camus The Stranger who embody her archetypes of the serious man, the subman, the Nihilist, the Adventurer? What would de Beauvoir say of Meursault? Does Meursault seem close to the ideal of freedom she espouses at the end of Personal Freedom and Others or does he seem nearer one of the pitfalls she describes? Quote some of the more appropriate passages to illustrate your answers. Do not use outside sources other than the readings and do not cite outside sources. Choose carefully what to quote from the readings. What you select to quote will be part of how you are being graded. Do not over-quote as filler. Cite the readings with (author, pg#) ex. (Sartre, 23), (de Beauvoir, 44). Do be careful to answer the questions directly. Write succinctly and demonstrate your strong grasp of the readings. The questions are guidelines that need not all be answered exhaustively. Develop a coherent picture throughout the entirety of your writing as best you can by sticking with a coherent emphasis.
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