Author Archives: Jonathan Webber

About Jonathan Webber

Reader in Philosophy, Cardiff University

Psychotherapy talks now on YouTube

Recordings from last January’s conference Rethinking Existentialism in Psychotherapy are now available on the project YouTube channel.

There are audio recordings of the talks by Eva Koumpli on psychodrama, Rebecca Pitt on play, and Katherine Morris and Miles Clapham on the lived body, along with a film of the talk by Lennox Thomas on legacies of colonialism.

photo of Lennox Thomas and Hudda Khaireh

The Imperative of Authenticity

photo of Simone de Beauvoir
A draft of chapter 10 is now available to download.

It reconstructs Beauvoir’s argument for the moral requirement of authenticity in Pyrrhus and Cineas.

The argument begins from a premise that, according to existentialism, everyone must accept: that some ends are valuable. It then argues that this commits one to valuing achieved ends as potential means to further ends, which in turn commits one to valuing the capacity to pursue projects.

If the argument is sound, then it derives the imperative to value the structure of human agency, the capacity to pursue projects, from that very structure itself.

The chapter is devoted to clarifying and detailing Beauvoir’s argument for this Kantian moral conclusion. It concludes that this argument for the imperative of authenticity should be taken seriously as a contribution to contemporary moral philosophy.

Please do let me know what you think of the chapter, either by posting in the Comments thread to this news item or sending me an email.

Draft chapters are available from the Book page.

From Absurdity to Authenticity

A full draft of chapter 9 is now available to download.

It analyses the eudaimonist arguments for the virtue of authenticity found in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. It argues that, because these are psychoanalytic arguments aimed at diagnosing and treating the sources of anxiety and distress, they cannot establish the moral conclusion that we all ought to adopt the project of authenticity irrespective of our other commitments.

In the absence of an argument for that conclusion, it looks as though existentialism entails the absurdist view that although we are each committed to our values, none of us actually have any justification for our values or for rejecting those we find abhorrent.

The chapter concludes by suggesting that Sartre’s Kantian comments on the moral requirement of authenticity in Existentialism Is a Humanism might best be read as summarising the argument Beauvoir gives in Pyrrhus and Cineas. The next chapter is devoted to that argument.

Please do let me know what you think of the chapter, either by posting in the Comments thread to this news item or sending me an email.

Draft chapters are available from the Book page.

Black Skin, White Masks

photo of Frantz Fanon

A full draft of chapter 8 is now available to download.

It argues that Fanon’s first book, Black Skin, White Masks, is a single coherent argument for a form of existentialism that agrees with Beauvoir’s in The Second Sex and Sartre’s in Saint Genet that personal characteristics are formed through the sedimentation of projects.

Unlike Beauvoir and Sartre, however, Fanon is a psychiatrist. His primary interest is in diagnosing and treating distress. He develops his existentialism as a contribution to the methods and concepts of psychiatric practise.

The book also develops an existentialist literary style, manifesting his philosophy in the range of works analysed in developing the theory and in the textual form of the argument itself.

Please do let me know what you think of the chapter, either by posting in the Comments thread to this news item or sending me an email.

Draft chapters are available from the Book page.

Sedimentation and the Grounds of Cultural Values

A full draft of chapter 7 is now available to download.

It argues that Sartre’s initial form of existentialism precludes any explanation of the widespread adoption of the project of bad faith that Sartre claims shapes our culture, and this seems to have been the problem that led him to adopt Beauvoir’s idea of sedimentation.

More specifically, Sartre’s analysis of anti-Semitism and Jewish culture is his attempt to ground a cultural theory in his initial form of existentialism. Its reliance on an unexplainable prevalence of bad faith is the central weakness of this analysis.

By contrast, Sartre’s essay on Négritude poetry, ‘Black Orpheus’, written only a few years later while Beauvoir was finalising The Second Sex, rests its account of cultural values on the idea of sedimentation through upbringing rather than on the idea of bad faith.

But it is his biography of Genet, published in 1952, that undertakes the task of fully rethinking his existentialism with the idea of sedimentation incorporated into it.

Please do let me know what you think of the chapter, either by posting in the Comments thread to this news item or sending me an email.

Draft chapters are available from the Book page.