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Freedom as a Value: A Critique of the Ethical Theory of Jean-Paul Sartre    David Detmer

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ISBN 0-8126-9083-4
$33.00      paper
262 pages
(December 1988)

Freedom as a Value:
A Critique of the Ethical Theory of Jean-Paul Sartre

David Detmer

This dramatic re-evaluation of Sartre’s ethical theory will establish its author as a leading American exponent of phenomenology and win many new followers for Sartre in the English-speaking world.


The concept of freedom is central to the whole of Sartre’s philosophy. Nevertheless, Sartre’s words leave us with many questions, not only about its meaning, but also about its implications for ethics and politics. Detmer’s achievement is to have written a book which beautifully clarifies the problem in a sympathetic yet critical way, often spelling out the arguments against Sartre and defending the sense and validity of his conception, better than Sartre himself.

—David Levin, Northwestern University


Detmer’s careful reconstruction of Jean-Paul Sartre’s central ontological concern is sympathetic, clear, and hard-headed. It is a book that clarifies several of Sartre’s most celebrated and misinterpreted theses, especially the notorious claim of ‘absolute freedom’. It is a real contribution to the Sartre literature.

—Robert C. Solomon, University of Texas at Austin


Detmer rescues Sartre’s much-maligned conception of freedom from analytic school critics by presenting a series of carefully crafted arguments supported by textual references . . . a methodical, responsible analysis of one of the most misunderstood concepts in all of Sartre’s thought.

—Lisa M. Heldke, Carleton College


a significant contribution to the study of Sartre’s ethics . . . a thorough exposition of the various notions of freedom in Sartre and of the subjectivistic and objectivistic dimensions of his moral theory.

—Thomas Anderson, Marquette University


a precise, informed, and forcefully-argued study of Sartre’s ethical theory.”

—Thomas R. Flynn, Emory University


“Freedom as a Value is a much needed reappraisal of Sartre’s ethical theory. Written with exemplary clarity, it analyzes Sartre’s paradoxical claim that because human individuals are free ontologically, a realistic ethics requires that all should be liberated so as to realize their freedom practically. Detmer demonstrates that there is a necessary, logical connection between Sartre’s existential psychology and his socio-political writing and offers a possible reconciliation between apparently conflicting tendencies in his work. This is an extraordinarily fine book and an important one.”

—Hazel E. Barnes, University of Colorado, Boulder



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