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Klok, J.A.

Department of the History of Philosophy

The problem of luck and acting for a reason in Sartre’s theory of freedom

This thesis is about Jean-Paul Sartre's (1905-1980) concept of the choice of the fundamental project, a very important concept in his theory of freedom. We will focus on Sartre’s theory of freedom as found in the fourth part of Being and Nothingness. Furthermore we will show that the objections against incompatiblism of ‘luck’ and ‘acting for a reason’ are problematic for Sartre’s theory of freedom as long as we focus on the core of that theory: the choice of the fundamental project. We will first show that we can define the choice of the fundamental project as an action. Then we will show that the objections against incompatibilism also hold for Sartre’s concept of the choice of the fundamental project.

The choice of the fundamental project is according to Sartre pre-reflexive: we can’t have knowledge of this choice, we can’t give reasons for why we made this specific choice, and we can’t justify our choice. We can only be consciously aware of our choice. Because of these properties of the choice for the fundamental project the common objections against incompatibilism of ‘acting for a reason’ and ‘luck’ can be applied to Sartre’s notion of this choice. Thus we are unable to distinguish between our fundamental choice as free action or as mere luck or arbitrariness. Thus we have shown that the notion of the fundamental project is not enough to refute the objections of acting for a reason and luck.  

Last modified:28 September 2015 1.43 p.m.