Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre is considered one of the most influential philosophers, whose works on freedom and existentialism paved way for new ideologies in the 20th century. In one of his best works, “Being and Nothingness,” Satre said that “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world he is responsible for everything he does.” The quote captured Sarte’s belief that for human beings, life is miserable because we are all “condemned to be free.” His quote that is influenced by existentialism meant that man has no excuse for how life turns out since everyone has the power to do as they choose. The freedom to act, therefore, is man’s condemnation is forced to invent himself and choose how his life will turn out.
To effectively understand Starte’s thinking, a look at the doctrine of existentialism can reveal that human life is subjective. Existentialism is a philosophical stance that believes that individuals are free and responsible, and that their acts of will determine their own development. Followers of existentialism refuse to believe that human nature is controlled by divine will, since existence precedes existence. Essentially, man exists as a being and only when he/she is self aware, will he be able to define himself. Ultimately, man is nothing but what he makes of himself. The view that man is responsible for his actions therefore, led to the idea that subjectivism exists in humanity. Subjectivism refers to freedom that an individual has and as a form of existentialism reveals to the fact that everyone has power to determine their own paths in life. What one person chooses, essentially, is an extension of how they hope the world will view them, an effect that transcends across all humanity.
However, what did Starte mean when he used the word “condemned?” Why would the philosopher choose such a harsh word to talk about freedom? According to Heidegger, whose use of “abandonment” resurfaces in his writings, God does not exist and thus, every human being is responsible for their actions. In existentialism, however, the idea that God does not exist is “embarrassing” since this means that there is no perfect example of values that humans should strive towards. Thus, Starte’s statement, “Man is condemned” is seen as a complaint that if indeed there is no God, then man has been abandoned in a world where he is supposed to be responsible. From the moment one exists, man is a “victim” of creation in a harsh world where his actions have impact. The existentialist, therefore, is a realistic individual who chooses to interpret the world from his own viewpoint with no “fall back” plan. As Ponge once said, “man is the future of man” since he is forsaken to his own means with no collaborator like God to guide him.
Existentialism’s relation to morality is amazing since it explains that human beings make choices every day of their lives. For example, in an organized world, man is faced with the option of choosing how they will be involved with others in their surroundings and every decision, to choose or not, has impact. A man who decides to marry, for instance, also must choose if he will have children or not, and how many if he does. Whichever decision made, there is an impossible choice to overcome and who’s to judge that these decisions are moral or not? If Stuart were to comment, he would say that all decisions are determined by creativity and invention. For instance, when an artist paints an original, no one asks them what they ought to have done instead. Just as a new painting is a surprise to the audience, so do the decisions we make each day. In life, no one can predict the outcomes of our actions and there is no guideline on which decision our lives should take. An individual should make their own decisions since there is no way to decide what priori their lives should take. Ultimately, the statement that “man is condemned to be free” means that life is nothing but what we choose it to be, that we determine what is of value.
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