Date of Award

Spring 1986

Document Type




First Advisor

Richard Lambert

Second Advisor

Barry Ferst

Third Advisor

Fr. William Greytak


Marxism and Existentialism? The mere proposal of a thesis researching for compatibility between these two prominent modern philosophical doctrines will no doubt strike the vast majority of readers as a somewhat peculiar— if not naive and futile—pursuit. This response is certainly not without historical grounds either. The Marxist response to the social injustices of the 19th century Industrial Revolution and the existentialist response to the absurdity and contingency of events in a war-ridden 20th century are widely regarded to be those of collectivism and individualism respectively. And the attempt of Jean Paul Sartre to synthesize these supposedly antithetical philosophies of "Marxism and Existentialism" in his Search for a Method and Critique of Dialectical Reason was widely criticized as a radical conversion from his earlier Being and Nothingness, one that vastly overstepped the bounds of existentialism. This thesis will question the alleged contradiction between Marxism and existentialism by searching both philosophies for compatible elements; this comparison will determine whether or not an existentialists social philosophy is logically possible and whether or not Marxism can support individual praxis or action within a revolutionary movement towards a new social totality. The first step with regard to evaluating both Marxism and existentialism is one of definition. Perhaps it is best then if I indicate first what is meant by the terms "Existentialism" and "Marxism" in this thesis and the manner in which these two traditions will be approached in searching for compatible elements.