Ethics Training for Law Enforcement

    Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he
    - Jean-Paul Sartre

    Existentialism refers to various philosophies that began in the 1930's. Existentialists attempt to
    interpret human existence, stressing the concreteness of life and its problematic character (1).
    Existentialist theory is centered on the individual and his relationship to the universe or to God (2).

    Existentialists believe in knowledge and wisdom, but they believe that ideas must be tested in the
    crucible of everyday existence. Knowledge must be put to work, and ones ideas must be backed up by
    ones actions. (3)  Existentialism resonates in a law enforcement environment where first responders
    witness and confront the gamut of human emotions and experiences, from childbirth to death. The
    ethical work of law enforcement officers often requires that ideas be supported by actions.

    Existentialists revolt against the traditional subtle, theoretical and remote ideas of metaphysical
    approaches to man and his place in the universe. Important existentialists of varying and conflicting
    thought included Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, Marcel, and Jean-Paul Sartre (ibid).

    French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre lived from 1905-1980. Sartre believed that existence precedes
    essence (3).  Sartre questioned the existence of God. He believed that God is an idea created by man.
    For Sartre there is no God and therefore no fixed human nature that forces one to act.

    Sartre believed that man is free to choose and entirely responsible for what he makes of himself.
    (Columbia)  Freedom as an existential concept means that man has perpetual and frequently
    agonizing freedom of choice. Sartre said that man is "condemned to be free" and exposed to the pain
    that free choice can bring. (4)

    (1) Existentialism. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 1, 2003, from Encyclopedia Britannica  

    (2) Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. (2002) Columbia University Press. New York:  Retrieved June 1, 2003 from

    (3) Craver, S. M., & Ozmon, H. A. (1999). Philosophical Foundations of Education, (6th ed.). New
    Jersey:  Prentice Hall. 269.

    (4) Free Will. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved June 1, 2003, from Encyclopedia Britannica  Online.>