Finding an Existential Ethic Essay

1570 Words 7 Pages
Finding an Existential Ethic


Existential philosophy is subject to a single, seemingly debilitating criticism: it comprises a frame of mind rather than a theory. As Mary Warnock argues in her book Existentialist Ethics, "It seems that to be attracted by Existentialism is to be attracted by a mood. When it comes to serious thought, one may find . . . that it is necessary to cast off the mood and start again" (57). The focus of the existentialist is on the individual, existing being. By nature, the subject of existentialism appears incommunicable. It demands that each individual come to an understanding of the inwardness of self independently. This inwardness is not a state which can be achieved, but a process of constantly coming
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These foundations of existentialism can be translated into an existential theory of ethics which holds at its center the tenet that all beings must be free in order to posses the essence of being. From this concept come the dictates of an existential ethic.

The first and most vital of these dictates is the idea of personal commitment. Existential commitment requires constant thought, expression, and action to develop personal essence. It is a dynamic and constant reaffirmation of personal faith; of coming to be. Faith is the simplest example of existential action. Kierkegaard explores faith through his discussion of Christianity. In his philosophy, Kierkegaard maintains that Christian faith or "inwardness" must constitute a state of continual reaffirmation of belief. Faced with the knowledge that Christianity provides no secure argument for the existence of God, the believer must make a choice to believe despite the irrationality of such a decision. Christian commitment is personal, passionate, and demands constant reconsideration and reaffirmation. It is a dynamic, rather than a passive belief. Kierkegaard writes:

Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of inwardness and objective uncertainty. If I can grasp God objectively, I do not believe, but because I cannot know God objectively, I must…