cover image Notebooks for an Ethics

Notebooks for an Ethics

Jean-Paul Sartre. University of Chicago Press, $86 (608pp) ISBN 978-0-226-73511-5

Written in 1947-1948, this unfinished treatise is Sartre's sketch for a revolutionary socialist ethics, and as such serves as a bridge between the existentialism of Being and Nothingness and the Marxist social thought of his later years. Sartre locates the roots of oppression in ignorance, stupidity, bad faith and mystification. He searchingly analyzes the oppression of women, children, slaves and, in an appendix, American blacks. He scathingly criticizes Frederick Engels, who, in his reading, absolved the oppressor of conscious responsibility by explaining oppression solely in terms of the interplay of economic forces. Deeming alienation to be a virtually inescapable condition, Sartre outlines a dialectics of choice and freedom in the spheres of work, religion and history. These lucidly translated posthumous notebooks contain a wealth of material on such topics as rights, violence, art, generosity, gift-giving, resignation and desire. (Oct.)