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Ethics of Ambiguity
Ch. I
Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.
. . . without failure, no ethics . . .
Man, Sartre tells us, is "a being who makes himself a lack of being in order that there might be being." That means, first of all, that his passion is not inflicted upon him from without. He chooses it.
His being is lack of being, but this lack has a way of being which is precisely existence.
existentialist conversion does not suppress my instincts, desires, plans, and passions. It merely prevents any possibility of failure by refusing to set up as absolutes the ends toward which my transcendence thrusts itself, and by considering them in their connection with the freedom which projects them.
Renouncing the thought of seeking the guarantee for his existence outside of himself, he will also refuse to believe in unconditioned values which would set themselves up athwart his freedom like things.
It is desire which creates the desirable . . .
There is an ethics only if there is a problem to solve.
An ethics of ambiguity will be one which will refuse to deny a priori that separate existants can, at the same time, be bound to each other, that their individual freedoms can forge laws valid for all.
To will oneself free is to effect the transition from nature to morality by establishing a genuine freedom on the original upsurge of our existence.
My project is never founded; it founds itself.
And it is precisely because an evil will is here possible that the words "to will oneself free" have a meaning. Therefore, not only do we assert that the existentialist doctrine permits the elaboration of an ethics, but it even appears- to us as the only philosophy in which an ethics has its place. For, in a metaphysics of transcendence, in the classical sense of the term, evil is reduced to error; and in humanistic philosophies it is impossible to account for it, man being defined as complete in a complete world. Existentialism alone gives - like religions - a real role to evil, and it is this, perhaps, which make its judgments so gloomy. Men do not like to feel themselves in danger. Yet, it is because there are real dangers, real failures and real earthly damnation that words like victory, wisdom, or joy have meaning. Nothing is decided in advance, and it is because man has something to lose and because he can lose that he can also win.
Ch. II
If we were to try to establish a kind of hierarchy among men, we would put those who are denuded of this living warmth - the tepidity which the Gospel speaks of - on the lowest rung of the ladder. To exist is to make oneself a lack of being; it is to cast oneself into the world. Those who occupy themselves in restraining this original movement can be considered as sub-men.
Ethics is the triumph of freedom over facticity, and the sub-man feels only the facticity of his existence.
Serious Man
The attitude of the sub-man passes logically over into that of the serious man; he forces himself to submerge his freedom in the content which the latter accepts from society. He loses himself in the object in order to annihilate his subjectivity.
Passionate Man
There is no way for a man to escape from this world. It is in this world that – avoiding the pitfalls we have just pointed out – he must realize himself morally. Freedom must project itself toward its own reality through a content whose value it establishes. An end is valid only by a return to the freedom which established it and which willed itself through this end. But this will implies that freedom is not to be engulfed in any goal; neither is it to dissipate itself vainly without aiming at a goal. It is not necessary for the subject to seek to be, but it must desire that there be being. To will oneself free and to will that there be being are one and the same choice, the choice that man makes of himself as a presence in the world. We can neither say that the free man wants freedom in order to desire being, nor that he wants the disclosure of being by freedom. These are two aspects of a single reality. And whichever be the one under consideration, they both imply the bond of each man with all others.
This individualism does not lead to the anarchy of personal whim. Man is free; but he finds his law in his very freedom. First, he must assume his freedom and not flee it by a constructive movement: one does not exist without doing something; and also by a negative movement which rejects oppression for oneself and others. In construction, as in rejection, it is a matter of reconquering freedom on the contingent facticity of existence, that is, of taking the given, which, at the start, is there without any reason, as something willed by man.

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"Introduction: Woman as Other"
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"Historical Materialism"
keyword: value
keyword: liberty