Against powerlessness: Means-end challenges for the Sartrean humanist
Jean-Paul Sartre once remarked that the writer—the philosopher included—must occupy herself with the problem of the relation between means and ends, or to put it another way, with the problem of the relation between ethics and politics. My aim in this dissertation is to describe and at least partially resolve certain means-end challenges that emerge with great importance in Sartre's humanistic philosophy. After offering a sympathetic account of Sartre's brand of humanism, I argue for a moral orientation that privileges the authority and interests of the dehumanized. This moral orientation shapes the sociopolitical ends worth struggling for. I then investigate problems related to political authority, revolutionary violence, and our arrangements with animals insofar as we must grapple with them as means to the end of a more humane world. In all three of the aforementioned problems, I argue that the Sartrean humanist must be open to morally uncomfortable means if we are going to be committed to the moral project of struggling against powerlessness and hence dehumanizing sociopolitical conditions.^
William L. McBride, Purdue University.