Swamped with your writing assignments? Take the weight off your shoulder!
Submit your assignment instructions
Each paper topic focuses on an objection to existentialism. Pick one of the topics, briefly explain
the objection, and construct a response to the objection based on the following texts:
“Existentialism is a Humanism,” “Existentialism and Popular Wisdom,” and The Ethics of
Ambiguity (it is up to you to decide which passages to focus on). In the second half of the paper,
assess the response. Your paper should include a thesis statement and a defense of the thesis.
I have attached the following texts.
One common objection to existentialism, discussed by both Sartre and Beauvoir, goes as
follows: If, according to existentialism, there are no objective values that might serve to justify
our actions, then we can do whatever we want (there is no room for ethics or moral judgments).
Explain why someone might have this worry about existentialism and outline a response on
behalf of the existentialist by drawing on the work of Beauvoir and Sartre. Then, discuss whether
this response is successful at answering the objection.
Existentialism is sometimes charged with isolating the individual by emphasizing the
individual’s subjectivity in a way that rules out the possibility of friendship, love, and solidarity
with others. Explain why someone might have this worry about existentialism and outline a
response on behalf of the existentialist by drawing on the work of Beauvoir and Sartre. Then,
discuss whether this response is successful at answering the objection.
– The paper should have an introduction that includes a thesis
statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion that summarizes your
– Each body paragraph should be devoted to one main point (don’t
cram a bunch of different ideas into one long paragraph; shorter,
focused paragraphs are preferable).
– You can use “I”.
– You must include citations and a bibliography, but the style guide is
up to you. I have included a bibliography on the assignment sheet
which you can copy into your paper.
– The paper should be approx. 1500 word(5 pages)
– You are not required to do any research beyond reading the assigned texts. However, if you do use another source, you must cite it.
– Read the texts carefully. Identify the specific pages where an author makes a point.
– If you use a quotation, contextualize or explain the meaning of the quote for your reader.
• Don’t rely too heavily on quotations-–we want to see your writing!
– It is important to recognize the difference between paraphrasing a point made by the author and providing an interpretation of the point. Be sure to distinguish claims that the author makes from your own interpretations of those claims.
– It is up to you to decide which parts of the readings are relevant for your discussion. You do not need to try to summarize all the material-–it is best to focus on key passages.
Constructing an Argument
– Approximately half of the paper should be devoted to evaluating the existentialist’s response to the objection outlined in the paper topic you choose to discuss.
– Your evaluation can take different forms, but it should not be a simple statement of your opinion.
– Your evaluation will likely involve showing that the existentialist’s argument is flawed in some way (maybe it’s invalid, or one of its premises is implausible, or it’s circular, or it has consequences that we shouldn’t accept, or it can’t handle certain cases, etc.).
– Your evaluation, like the exegetical portion of the paper, should focus on specific claims made by the authors in question; it should be obvious how the points you make interact with the points the authors are making.
– A good way to test the strength of your own argument is to consider possible objections to it. It is sometimes worthwhile to make these explicit in the paper, and to answer them as best you can.
– It is important to acknowledge when you don’t have a worked-out answer to an objection. Sometimes, you can only gesture towards possible responses that you don’t have the time or resources to fully formulate.
– Know when to weaken your thesis: it’s okay to argue for a relatively small claim. This is better than to trying to support a more ambitious thesis when you don’t have the time/space to properly do so.