Title: Rethinking Existentialism: From Radical Freedom to Sedimentation
Abstract: Sartre's conception of radical freedom is often taken to be the central claim of existentialism, or at least French existentialism. On this view, the reasons that an agent experiences are dependent on that agent's projects, which persist only insofar as the agent endorses them. I argue that this theory makes it impossible to explain common values among a cultural group, that Sartre came to realise this during the 1940s, and as a result he replaced it with the theory that projects increase in inertia and influence over time. This is the theory of project sedimentation that grounds Beauvoir's theory of gender in The Second Sex, to which Sartre acknowledges his debt, and animates her first novel, She Came To Stay, published in the same year as Being and Nothingness. We should therefore take Beauvoir's version of the idea that existence precedes essence as the central claim of French existentialism.