Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

Sartre: Freedom and Morality – A rough sketch

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

One convinces himself, in some sense, that he is bound to act by external circumstance, in order to escape the anguish of freedom. Sartre says that man is condemned to be free: whether he adopts an ‘objective’ moral system to do this choosing for him, or follows only his pragmatic concerns, he cannot help but be aware that they are not – fundamentally – part of him. Moreover, as possible intentional objects of one’s consciousness, one is fundamentally not part of oneself, but rather exactly what one, as consciousness, defines oneself in opposition to; along with everything else one could be conscious of.

Fundamentally, Sartre believes mankind cannot escape responsibility by adopting an external moral system, as the adoption of such is in itself a choice that we endorse, implicitly or explicitly, for which we must take full responsibility. Sartre argues that one cannot escape this responsibility, as each attempt to part one’s self from the freedom of choice is in itself a demonstration of choice, and choice is dependent on a person’s wills and desires.

As a human, one cannot claim his actions are determined by external forces; this is the core statement of existentialism. One is ‘condemned’ to this eternal freedom; human beings exist before the definition of human identity exists. One cannot define oneself as a thing in the world, as one has the freedom to be otherwise. One is not “a philosopher”, as at some point one must/will cease the activities that define the self as “a philosopher”. Any role that one might adopt does not define one as there is an eventual end to one’s adoption of the role; i.e. other roles will be assigned to us, “a chef”, “a mother”. The self is not constant, it cannot be a thing in the world. Though one cannot assign a positive value to definitions that may apply to oneself, one remains able to say what one is not. For example, an adult human male may not be a man, but he is certainly not a woman. Therefore, one is defined by what one is not.

This inner anguish over moral uncertainty is a central underlying theme in existentialism, as the anguish demonstrates a personal feeling of responsibility over the choices one makes throughout life. Without an emphasis on personal choice, one may make use of an external moral system as a tool to moralize otherwise immoral acts, leading to negation of the self. According to existentialism, dedicated professionals of their respective moral codes – priests interpreting sacred scriptures, lawyers interpreting the Constitution, doctors interpreting the Hippocratic oath – should, instead of divesting the self of responsibility in the discharge of one’s duties, be aware of one’s own significance in the process. This recognition involves the questioning of the morality of all choices, taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choice and therefore; a constant reappraisal of one’s own and others’ ever-changing humanity. One must not exercise bad faith by denying the self’s freedom of choice and accountability. Taking on the burden of personal accountability in all situations is an intimidating proposition – by pointing out the freedom of the individual, Sartre seeks to demonstrate that the social roles and moral systems we adopt protect us from being morally accountable for our actions.

From: unreferenced source

Nietzsche on Freedom of Will

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Where the theory of freedom of will originated.

Over one man necessity stands in the shape of his passions, over another as the habit of hearing and obeying, over a third as a logical conscience, over a fourth as caprice and a mischievous pleasure in escapades. These four will, however, seek the freedom of their will precisely where each of them is most firmly fettered: it is as if the silkworm sought the freedom of its will in spinning.

How does this happen? Evidently because each considers himself most free where his feeling of living is greatest; thus, as we have said, in passion, in duty, in knowledge, in mischievousness respectively.

That through which the individual human being is strong, wherein he feels himself animated, he involuntarily thinks must also always be the element of his freedom: he accounts dependence and dullness, independence and the feeling of living as necessarily coupled. Here an experience in the social-political domain has been falsely transferred to the farthest metaphysical domain: in the former the strong man is also the free man; the lively feeling of joy and sorrow, high hope, boldness in desire, powerfulness in hatred is the property of the rulers and the independent, while the subjected man, the slave, lives dull and oppressed.

The theory of freedom of will is an invention of the ruling classes.

Friedrich Nietzsche


Kant, Schiller and Sartre – Search and Ideals of Freedom

Monday, December 2nd, 2013