20 December 2009

Sartreian Freedom

As an atheist, Sartre denied that man is born with certain values, that man is born with universal ethics. As such, man must define freedom through his own actions. Freedom, in a classical definition, is to be without restraint. Sartre attempted to expand that definition by asserting that man was a prisoner of his own freedom, and that freedom was the only source of values. In short, man decides his values as he discovers his freedom.

As such, it matters not what side of a battle man sides with, so long as man acts with “good faith”, chooses the good of an action. Man, being his own source of freedom, establishes his own values. To deny introspection, to not choose to act for the good, leaves man in anxiety and acting in “bad faith”. Man must not act as others act, in a universal good, because that would remove introspection, would render the decision bad. Being born without a hierarchal system of values, man continually builds his own. As such, man is able to destroy the hierarchy with each choice and establish a new one. Man, realizing that he is the source of values, the fount of freedom, will only choose to adhere to his freedom. Man then, with a god removed, is his own judge.

Sartre was emphasizing that freedom is subjective, in that, man and man alone is capable of understanding his own freedom. Sartre believed that most men hide from their freedom, in denial of it, and adopt the deterministic values of society and/or theology. Attribution to external sources is utter denial of inherent freedom. Things influence things, but man, as an actor, is not a thing. Man is responsible for himself. To act differently makes man inauthentic, and man renounces his humanity.

To further extend freedom, no man has rights, as rights are external things. Rights are determinism. A ruler has the right to rule because the citizens deny their freedom in a Nietzscheian slave-morality as they accept passively the values set before them. Rights
have no ability to guide one’s action, to determine conduct. Man, being aware of his freedom, creates his own values, his own hierarchies. As such, even a revolutionary, one who battles for the freedom of all, denies his own freedom, as a revolution carries its own values and rules of conduct, ethics.

Sartre has established that man being free determines his own values, and as such, those values are mercurial, changing with each situation. A man who must choose between family and country can not rely on established values, but must determine his own action. Man must act for the good. How each man determines the good is man’s freedom. Freedom then is an active form, is not in stasis. Man who resists freedom is in a continual form of anxiety, as he must determine
to act for the good, to create his own values with each situation.

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