Date of Award

Fall 1976

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Anderson, Thomas C.

Second Advisor

Kang, Howard

Third Advisor

Collingwood, Francis J.


Since the publication of Being and Nothingness in 1943, readers of this work of Jean-Paul Sartre have debated whether, within the description of the human being given there by Sartre, positive human relationships based on the mutual respect and promotion of freedom are possible. There are those who insist that Sartre's contention that conflict is the essence of human relationships applies to all possible relationships in which the Sartrean man could engage; there are others who insist that, through a "radical conversion" hinted at by Sartre, the Sartrean man can extend beyond relationships based solely on conflict and engage in ones based on respect for human freedom, Sartre himself promised to throw light on this problem in a later work on ethics, but such a work was never published, and the controversy has continued. Most often ignored in this context is the philosophical work of Sartre's long-time colleague and close friend, Simone de Beauvoir. This neglect is unfortunate because de Beauvoir set out to do what Sartre left unfinished, namely, the task of showing that positive human relationships are possible within the Sartrean philosophy of man, And she succeeded in providing the best argument for human beings respecting and promoting one anther's freedom within that context, This solution to the Sartrean problem can he seen through an examination of her works Pyrrhus and Cineas (1944), The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), and The Second Sex (1949). This dissertation begins with an exposition cf the r,philosophy of man given by Sartre, and accepted and reinforced by de Beauvoir, in order to provide the context for an examination of human relationships. Those relationships which flew easily from Sartre's description, negative relationships, are explored first, using the examples of love, hatred, and vengeance, Then the possibility of positive human relationships in this context is shown beginning with the early work of Sartre but more clearly explained through the work of de Beauvoir. From the possibility of positive human relationships we move to justifications for them, the best being that offered, by de Beauvoir in Pyrrhus and Cineas. Finally, some critical evaluation is offered for both de Beauvoir's justification itself and for the Sartrean premises on which it is based. I conclude that de Beauvoir's argument for positive human relationships, although it is the best that has been offered within the Sartrean context, fails to justify freedom for all human beings, as any argument within that context must.



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