Toward an Ethics of Nothingness: Sartre, Supervenience, and the Necessity of My Contingency

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José Luis Fernández


Ethics normally proceeds by establishing some kind of ground from which norms can be
derived for human action. However, no such terra firma is found in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and
Nothingness, which instead lays down a sedimentary soil consisting of a blend of nothingness and
contingency. This paper aims to show how Sartre is able to build an ethical theory from this
seemingly groundless mixture, and it proceeds in three sections. Section one aims to disentangle the
relation between the for-itself (pour-soi) and the in-itself (en-soi) from antithetical characterizations
by placing them in a state of supervenience. Section two works to explain how both the in-itself
and the for-itself are not divided ontologically, but are both in the same ontological state, namely,
contingency. And in section three, it is argued that Sartre’s ethics reveals that because human
beings share the same thrownness with Others in a world, they have to take title for such a world.
Within a Sartrean ethics of nothingness, one’s nothingness leads one to the shared nothingness of
Others, of which one must take responsibility.

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How to Cite
Fernández, J. L. (2021). Toward an Ethics of Nothingness: Sartre, Supervenience, and the Necessity of My Contingency. Humanities Bulletin, 4(1). Retrieved from

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