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Let's Get Rid of Motivation: Sartre's Wisdom

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Jean-Paul Sartre is probably the only existentialist who describes in detail, mainly in Being and Nothingness, the problems arising from the concept of 'motivation'. More precisely, Sartre describes a group of notions – motivation is one of them – that reveal the same basic ontological problem. Like these other notions, he states, the concept of 'motivation' ignores the primordial freedom that is central to human existence, that the human being is freedom, that every person is condemned to be free. I acknowledge that there may be a minor linguistic problem with the term 'motivation'. In translations of Sartre, 'motivation' is used, alongside 'motive', to render a number of terms used in the original French, such as 'motif' and 'mobile'. In this essay, however, I relate only to the English term 'motivation', as it is used in contemporary psychological and educational research. In short, in what follows I do not relate to the other possible translations of the French term for motivation, but rather to its accepted scholarly use in English-speaking countries.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2006

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