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The Earth Charter

Stoyanov, Alex Contemporary Poli Thought Final Paper The Earth Charter is a radical document that tries to offer solutions to help the world and all of mankind to try and find a level of sustainability. Through Jean Paul Sartre’s theories and ideologies, I try and find my own voice and ideals of how I personally feel about the Earth Charter. Many people have tried to figure out what they could do, with little success, to fix the Earth and save it from ourselves. Though it is a start, the Earth Charter simply does not have a clear and concise plan of what needs to be done.

Jean Paul Sartre’s conceptualizations of justice and power and how power should be organized make the Earth Charter an unjust document. Question 1 Nietzsche was critical of modern notions of justice, which lead him to advocate his theory of will to power as the basis for politics. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in man; achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life; these are all manifestations of the will to power.

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He felt that a person’s will was the driving force in a human’s life and that humans should follow their will for true justice to be achieved. By doing so, humans would be able to set themselves beyond good and evil and eventually become an Ubermensch. Nietzsche’s concept for “an over man or Ubermensch ” is someone who overcomes the herd perspective and is capable of creating a new perspective without dogmatically forcing his perspective on others. Nietzsche also believed that justice was only just when it was among people of equal stature and class.

It certainly seems true that, if we conceive of justice as a form of fairness (not many would dispute this), and fairness is only really achievable among those who are equally powerful, then justice as well is only achievable among those who are equally powerful. Which means, that the least powerful in society must, necessarily, always fall short of getting justice. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre focused more sharply on the moral consequences of existentialist thought. In literary texts as well as in philosophical treatises, Sartre emphasized the vital implications of human subjectivity.

Sartre’s 1946 lecture L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (“Existentialism is a Humanism”) offers a convenient summary of his basic views1. The most fundamental doctrine of existentialism is the claim that—for human beings at least—existence precedes essence. As an atheist, Sartre demands that we completely abandon the traditional notion of human beings as the carefully designed artifacts of a divine creator. There is no abstract nature that one is destined to fill. Instead, each of us simply is in the world; what we will be is then entirely up to us. Being human just means having the capacity to create one’s own essence in time.

This conception of justice is based on the individual and not a society type justice, but a justice that by being yourself and having authentic and sincere feelings about something that is how you will be able to find justice for yourself. Sartre’s lover, Simone de Beauvoir, was also an existentialist who supported many ideas of which Sartre had. She was a noted feminist existentialist who also believed that existence precedes essence, meaning in the case of feminist existentialism, that she was not born a woman but became a woman. Beauvoir argued that women have historically been considered deviant, abnormal.

Beauvoir said that this attitude limited women’s success by maintaining the perception that they were a deviation from the normal, and were always outsiders attempting to emulate “normality”. She believed that for feminism to move forward, this assumption must be set aside1. Beauvoir asserted that women are as capable of choice as men, and thus can choose to elevate themselves, moving beyond the ‘immanence’ to which they were previously resigned and reaching ‘transcendence’, a position in which one takes responsibility for oneself and the world, where one chooses one’s freedom2.

French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault conceptualized justice as an ever changing product of man. He uses the example of the regicide trial of Robert-Francois Dameins as a prime example of how justice is ever changing. 3 In the year of 1757 Damiens was publicly executed by drawing and quartering, a form of execution in which Convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disemboweled, beheaded and chopped into four pieces.

Foucault mentions this because of the fact that less than a 100 years later the first modern prisons are created and rules for them are identified. It shows the huge change that has happened with justice, when in which hanging and quartering at a time was found to be a just form of capital punishment, now it is considered inhumane and cruel. “Justice must always question itself,” Foucault argues, “just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions4. ”  The Earth Charter, though it has a good message, is seriously flawed and it is impossible for me to fully accept it with authenticity and sincerity.

It serves as a kind of Ten Commandments for promoting a healthy planet and a sustainable future for it. It wants people to eradicate the major problems that concern our world such as poverty, discrimination, global warming, over using of natural resources and many other things that plague our planet. The Earth Charter on paper sounds like a great idea because it addresses all of the problems in which our world is facing and seems that it could actually make a difference, but in its practice and enforcement is where it falls flat.

One of its main faults is that it has no way of actually enforcing its policies and things that it wants to do. There is no world government that could actually force nations, citizens, or corporations to follow these policies and programs. Sartre would agree with me because we both agree that people should not have a forced morality put upon them and that humans, if they want to fix our planet, need to sincerely believe in this ideology and not just because a document told them.

Also it would fail because there is no way that corporations would support this and would lobby countless amounts of dollars for it to not be passed. Corporations would not want people to know the inner workings of their company and having to spend money to change how they do business and having their profits reduced. The Earth Charter as well doesn’t say or bring anything new to the table. It seems to regurgitate the same things that politicians when they are trying to get elected like, less dependency on foreign oil, higher environmental standards, less pollution, no more war, but yet the promises are hardly ever kept.

Question 2 Jean-Paul Sartre supports my position on the Earth Charter more so than any of the other philosophers previously discussed. The Earth Charter imposes a sense of forced reality that I nor Sartre would agree with. People should adopt some of the policies that it states but not because a document is telling them what is right or wrong, but because they themselves authentically and sincerely believe in it. Another Sartre theory that supports my position is the theory of bad faith.

The Earth Charter has this due to the fact that it lacks sincerity and it does not assert itself and its positions and therefore it does not have good faith in its existence. It loses its sincerity due to the fact that the document tries to appease to everyone and in doing so loses the validity of its message. Sartre’s conceptualization on power was that no matter what government does that the people are always essentially free. No matter how objectified they may be, the gifts of freedom and consciousness mean that they always have the possibility of making something out of their circumstance of objectification.

Sartre believed in the essential freedom of individuals, and he also believed that as free beings, people are responsible for all elements of themselves, their consciousness, and their actions. That is, with total freedom comes total responsibility. He believed that even those people who wish not to be responsible, who declare themselves not responsible for themselves or their actions, are still making a conscious choice and are thus responsible for anything that happens as a consequence of their inaction.

Simone de Beauvoir would have supported the Earth Charter due to the fact of her feminist existentialism and her wanting of a free and equal world. The Earth Charter in its policies talks about “to Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential6. ” She would have supported this because she was a proponent of a fair and equal world and her works reflect on it.

Her conceptions of power were very similar to that of Sartre’s in which she also felt that people were always essentially free and that no matter what people are able to make something out of constant objectification. Nietzsche would not have supported the Earth Charter but his reasons on why he wouldn’t make it hard to accept his position. Nietzsche would not have supported the Earth Charter because of his position on morality. He feels that morality should not hold humans back and that we should be free to do what we want because we are beyond good and evil.

I disagree with this and Sartre would too because for humanity to function there has to be some sense of morality. Morality though doesn’t need to be in a forced way based upon rules of men. Morality could be from your own consciousness that you sincerely believe and feel is the “right” thing to do. Sartre would want people to be free from unjust documents like the Earth Charter but he would also want people to take full responsibility for their actions and though, yes, the people are free, they still have to answer themselves and truly feel that they are on the best course of action.

Nietzsche conceptualized power by his theory of will to power. Those who strive to be the absolute best of themselves, in a Nietzschian world, it would mean that that person became an Ubermensch and refuses to follow a herd mentality would be the ones in power, not of people, but of themselves. Foucault would have supported the Earth Charter based on his disciplinary practices as power frames. The Earth Charter tries to go after a person’s mind and make the Earth Charter more appealing to people, hence the vague language in which it outlines its policies, it tries to appeal to a wider audience.

It also tries to normalize judgment by wanting people to adapt to all of the policies listed in it, so that way it would be easier to control people to follow the Earth Charter. Foucault would also have supported the Earth Charter due to the fact that in order for it policies to be carried out, a hierarchical observation will be needed so as to watch, control, and make sure people follow the rules. Both Sartre and I would disagree with Foucault on his position with the Earth Charter. People should be free to do what they want and be able to handle the full responsibility of their actions.

Having people observe you all the time and constantly observing your movements is wrong and goes against human rights. Sartre would also disagree with how Foucault argues that prisons prison the mind. Sartre would say that no matter where a person is he is still free and no amount of prison or objectification will ever possibly take that away. The mind will always be free to think what it wants and humans no matter how constrained they are are still free to decide, every day a person lives he is free to choose what he or she may do with it, whether it be starting a business or even killing themselves.

Sartre’s arguments for how the Earth Charter is unjust make it more apparent of how the Earth Charter is an ineffective document. The Earth Charter tries to be the document that could help solve what is ailing us in the world. Though it has a few good policies that, we as humans should follow or at least try to follow, it fails to register any significant impact and the vagueness of its wording makes it near impossible to ever see its adoption. Citations 1.

The Second Sex, 1949, translated by H M Parshley, Penguin 1972; 2. http://www. marxists. org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/index. htm 3. Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault Vintage; 2nd Edition edition (April 25, 1995) 4. http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/quotes/m/michelfouc400252. html 5. http://www. marxists. org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre. htm 6. http://www. earthcharterinaction. org/content/pages/Read-the-Charter. html


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