Existential Freedom: Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre wrote Existentialism and the Human Emotions in response to the critics who viewed the corollary of his existential philosophy to be solipsism or quietism. Whether existentialists are religious or secular, Sartre states that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity. Thus, subjectivity is the necessary starting point, for “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” (15)

Sartre says that man is conscious of imagining himself as being in the future and consequently is what he has planned himself to be.  Man is a plan which is aware of itself, where nothing exists prior to this plan. (16) This runs contrary to the Cartesian paradigm stemming from “I think, therefore I am” where essence precedes existence, where concepts are the genesis of operating processes (13). In this view man is dictated by and in bondage to a priori ideas and concepts as a way of existing. However, man’s existence precedes preexisting determinations. In this way existence precedes his very essence, rendering man totally free.

Freedom is the predetermined nature that establishes a commonality of human nature. Existence is a universal human predicament, a condition that precedes consciousness, a situation man finds himself in. (14) Man’s commodity is his necessity to determine, his freedom in choosing to be. With this freedom, Sartre says, comes a responsibility for determining what he is. Every act contributes to the creation of man’s image so that every choice establishes an essence of man. (17) Man is always responsible for his choice to choose what he is to be and how he is to live: he is always in the making, continually projecting himself into the world and materializing his freedom through action, through deciding. (50)

Sartre emphasizes the responsibility man has to this freedom. A dishonest man is one who believes in passion and other deterministic excuses. Man is responsible for his passions. There is no conception prior to what man has expressed through his actions. (23) Man fashions himself through his actions, by expressing himself through a series of undertakings, through an ensemble of choices, in which he is the sum of the organization and relationships contained therein. (33) This image of man forms a constitution that is continually manifested through his total involvement on the basis of the repeated acts he forms. (34) In this way, man is a destiny unto himself in which his actions enable him to live. (35)

This freedom extends not only to the individual, but to others. Because there is no a priori conception of man, what he is and should and can be, every choice and action contributes to what we believe the image of man ought to be. (17) By allowing for the understanding of self and others, intersubjectivity establishes a universality among men that is a comprehensible human condition. Sartre says his choices to pass beyond or recede from limits or deny or adapt, represent a configuration of man in a set of circumstances. (33) This configuration is perpetually made through choosing or building an understanding of other’s configuration. (39) Thus, since the creation and invention of man’s image occurs our freedom comes with a responsibility to all mankind.

Sartre says that the fundamental project of human reality is the desire to be God since God “represents the permanent limit in terms of which man makes known to himself what he is”. (63) Freedom is the choice to create itself its own possibilities. Consequently, freedom is a lack of being. By being something concrete, one is not free. Therefore, the annihilation of being is freedom. (65) Man’s project, Sartre says, is to manifest freedom through a lack of being by making itself the desire of being, that is, making “the project-for-itself of being in-itself-for-itself”. (66)

Works Cited

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism and Human Emotions. New York: Citadel Press, 1987.

One. Night stand.

There is a rhythmic knocking above me: Back and forth, high and low. Intermittent melodies varying in pace and tempo. The beatings begin again. Sex. I want it to stop.

I had sex this weekend. A few times. With a few people. I can’t say I felt great about the encounters. At the end of a wild night, after a long day of intoxication, I am left with a surging desire for affection. I am left in need of a woman’s love, their body in my arms, on my body.
Continue reading “One. Night stand.”

licking the earth

No longer do I wish to form judgmental opinions of the world. I am as lost as the rest. I speak of ‘the rest’ as if they were somehow outside the sanctums of reality, disillusioned by choice. We are all disillusioned. I am as much a wanderer as anyone. My desires are as unpredictable as an infants first thoughts or an old mans last. Since I came into this world, my intuition has kindly afforded me with a singular constant: the feeling of strangeness. It has successfully weaved its way throughout my pursuits, pervading my heart and jading my innocence, so that I am left feeling alone and alienated in my own world. Whereas I thought understanding would provide a saving clairvoyance and break the shackles holding me back from the true world, it has only doubled the distortion and distanced me farther. Despite how far I run from the pining habits of subjectivism, or however poignant my desperation to shed the all encompassing feelings in relation to ‘me’, I am always straddled the nascent cogitations I’m trying to escape. Who can run from their thoughts? Does this make sense?

Is there any security other than the affirmations I authenticate with my own will? That alone leaves me doubting. Doubt is corrosive. It imbues the heart with malignant motives. It does not fortify a cause but weakens it.

The question is: If I decide reality, how should I decide it to be? Do I adopt another’s philosophical gestalt? or is it subjective? If I want the most accurate representation of whats going on, how should I perceive? What should I perceive? What matters most? Do I gauge reality through my senses? Do senses exact accuracy? Do I render through feelings? Are good feelings trustworthy? Are positive feelings to be trusted? What is good? What is positive? No no no no no no.

Feelings lie. My imagination corrupts the sensual reality. All man sees is a hallucination. Man needs laws and governing principles to construct his reality, and faith that they are workable. Enough faith to test them and find them true. Otherwise man in all his decadence goes on “Licking the earth” as Muggeridge put it. Trifling pursuits of instant gratification, indulging in feelings and pleasures fabricated by mundane impulses, striving to fill the vacuity of a soul meant for a unification with its creator.

Words are powerful. They invoke reality. They color and illustrate the pallid landscapes of the mind.
Would it be too hard to believe that a God revealed himself to the world through those who opened themselves to Him? Who, disenchanted by the things (impulses, satisfactions, feelings, pleasures, pains, etc.) of this world, looked to a metaphysical unification, a relationship, with something greater? Could this something greater have genuinely instilled truth through their pen, despite their flawed human condition?

gotta go..

“There is something ridiculous and even quite indecent in an individual claiming to be happy. Still more a people or a nation making such a claim. The pursuit of happiness… is without any question the most fatuous which could possibly be undertaken. This lamentable phrase ”the pursuit of happiness” is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world.” Muggeridge

“When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises, being known and praised, ostensible pleasures like acquiring money or seducing women, or traveling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer. In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called, ‘licking the earth’.” Malcolm Muggeridge


fear and desire

People don’t change unless there is a recognized need to change. No one changes for no reason. When a need presents itself it’s accompanied by two forms of motivating factors that fuel the need to change. Desire and Fear. Those two dynamics hugely impact our lives on a daily basis. Fear allows us to survive, yet it inhibits growth. Fear is the last thing you want governing your needs. Desire is the most powerful emotion in the world. Love and sex are probably the two most powerful desires within the human psyche. They’re also the most important for relationships and, of course, reproduction.

I was thinking about the topics of fear and desire. Desire requires a lot more faith and energy. Fear is almost programmed into us. Its cowardice. Its shame to confront the facts and truths and obeying the desires dwelling within you because of the lack of confidence people have in themselves. The fear of failure. They suppress who they are and what they want. WHY. FEAR. It’s a lie. We have nothing to lose. I wish I could buy into this myself, cause as I say this I feel like there are things I’m afraid to see out, for fear of rejection or failure. It’s a load. I, nor anyone else has anything to lose.

My desire to be fueled with faith; seeking out my passions until they fulfill me, or satisfied with all that I could have done or is worth doing.