Total Responsibility Just like every other child, I was always questioned, “What do you want to be when you grow up? ” Adults usually replied to my response by saying “You can be anything as long as you put your mind to it. ” Now that I am a college student, I have recently had to ponder this question again. Taking the question In a more serious matter compared to when I was 6, I realized that there Is an endless amount of possibilities for me to choose from. Does this idea that I can be whatever I want to be, still apply?
Sartre strongly believes that every individual has total freedom to be anything he or he wishes to be. However, with every bit of freedom that is granted to man, there is an inevitable and considerable amount of responsibility that comes along with it. In Basic Writings of Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre provides readers with a life- questioning preposition on the freedom granted to man. According to existentialism, every individual has full and unlimited freedom in his or her life.
The proposed notion that everyone must carry the weight of responsibility in every choice that they make, begins with Sartre concept of “existence precedes essence” This Is the Idea hat man Is brought Into this world as a clean slate with no preconceived purpose; whom over the span of his life defines himself through his choices and experiences. Sartre states, “Man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and only afterwards defines himself”(345). Existentialism bases its principles in the idea that there is no universal human nature for man to conform and live his life according to.
Man is free to decide his own future, regardless of what his human condition was. Sartre elaborates on this concept, “Man is nothing else than his plan; he exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself; he is therefore nothing else than the ensemble of his acts, nothing else than his life”(355). Therefore, it is the individual’s obligation to determine a meaning to his life. He is free to think how he wants, and do whatever he pleases. The concept of freedom always sounds enticing and promising. Unfortunately however, Indefinite freedom and the burden of great responsibility come as a package. Man’s ultimate responsibility Is to define himself. In order to do this he must first take upon the responsibility of Involvement. Sartre motivationally sakes the claim that “Subjectivity must be the starting point”(344). An individual’s life begins with his own subjectivity. Each person is entitled to his or her personal thoughts and values. However, in truth, the importance lies within what the individual did rather than their ideals.
Therefore, it is upon the individual to put these feelings and decisions into action. For, if the individual does not pursue his responsibility to fully involve himself into his feelings and choices, he cannot sufficiently define himself. Another idea that Sartre proposes, which greatly reflects n the package deal of freedom and responsibility, unfolds the conception that there is no God, thus, no human nature. Without God or a higher being, there are no preconceived concepts of “good” or “bad”, nor are there values to which you should aim to live your life by.
Sartre explains”… Elf God does not exist, we find no values or commands to turn to which legitimate our conduct. So, In the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone with no make. There is no God or religious belief to cling to and thus, blame for your actions. Nor can you use a doctrine, man-formulated written resource, or intellect as an excuse for your decisions. Sartre used his student as an example to illustrate this certain situation, which most individuals can relate to.
He elaborated on the fact that it’s understandable to want to rely on outside resources to give you insight and reassurance when you are indecisive about a decision. In most conditions however, situations are complex and have several aspects that need to be considered when making a final decision. Under those circumstances, these resources that contain incorrect ideas cannot help you make the right decision. While Sartre student was stuck in his dilemma he concluded that in reality all that matters is feeling. You must rely on nothing besides your instincts.
Yet, you won’t know whether it was the best choice or not until after you pursue it, which refers back to the responsibility of involvement. This reflects on the fact that coupled with any choice is consequence. Despite whether the consequence positively or negatively affects one’s life, it must be freely accepted with no excuses. No one but the individual himself is responsible for is actions, and therefore only he is responsible for the consequences. Take for example a man whom suddenly faces the urge to murder another man out of anger.
He is granted every ounce of freedom in the world to act upon this feeling and put it into action. According to Sartre beliefs, this man will be seen as a murderer, for that is how he has chosen to define himself. If he is consequently sentenced to life, he must accept this freely for he is fully responsible for all of his actions. If he were to choose the next day to change his life around and become a doctor, he has the redeem to do this as well. Sartre proposes this idea that man has the freedom of choice and involvement, however the responsibility to pursue these yearnings lies solely within the individual.
Taking the time to ponder this inescapable and agonizing responsibility of one’s self may eventually become slightly overwhelming. Moreover, the thought of being responsible for other individuals as well could seem almost unbearable. In fact, the essential meaning of existentialism consists of the responsibility of others. Sartre claims that man is responsible for all of mankind. It is evilly noted that within every choice that an individual makes, he must not only consider his best interest; but all of mankind’s as well.
Man has full freedom of his choices, however; the responsibility of choosing good for all of mankind dwells within every decision. This sprouts a bit of irony to the surface. If there are no preconceived universal values, how can man be responsible for man? For, each individual has a different outlook on life and a different destiny that they have intended for themselves. Sartre answers this question with, “We always choose the good, and thing can be good for us without being good for all”(346).
He leaves you with the deep and total responsibility to choose what would be good for everyone. Man is expected to choose good instead of evil, not for himself but for the image of man as a whole. Since there are no universal life values, every man must base his decisions on the question, “What if everyone acted this way? ‘ Every individual’s actions reflect on the values that they established for themselves, which also serves as an underlying opinion of how they believe all of mankind should act.
There is no doubt that redeem and responsibility coincide by several obvious matters; such as involving deeper underlying connection between freedom and responsibility, which is described by three “grandiloquent” words: anguish, forlornness, and despair. It is common to feel a sense of tidiness, guilt, and anxiety when the responsibility of making a plausible decision heavily rests upon you shoulders. These feelings are referred to as anguish. When granted unlimited freedom, the fear of the unknown is inevitable, because there are endless possibilities available to you.
The pressure to ecocide the best choice for not only you, but for all of mankind can create an overwhelming feeling of deep responsibility. This may cause an individual to regress towards inaction and quietism. Moreover, because involvement and action are major aspects of responsibility, regressing toward quietism would be equivalent to not being responsible at all. On another note, considering the idea that there is no existent God, leads to the feeling of forlornness. Without God we are presented with a world where anything is possible.
This results in entitlement to total freedom due o fact that there are no values, no universal belief to cling to, and most importantly no excuses. With this total freedom comes total responsibility for our actions and because of this we often are left in a state of forlornness. Last but not least, freedom and responsibility also often result in a feeling of despair. If total control were added to the package, life would be quite easy. Unfortunately however, we do not have full control of what occurs in our lives. Hence total freedom and total control are two completely different concepts that do not correlate.
Despair arises from the fact that e do not have the power to change and control everything, but are still held responsible for what occurs. It was evident that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. The concept that along with total freedom comes total responsibility reappears in every aspect presented to us from Sartre. An unlimited freedom is granted to all of man: freedom of choice, action, values, life-definition, beliefs, etc. However, without responsibility freedom would have no value. The responsibility to define one’s life gives motivation to pursue the opportunities of freedom granted to us.
Responsibility for mankind provides freedom, because according to existentialism, in order for one man to be free all men must be free. And lastly we must be responsible for our consequences because it is through our actions, that we are constantly forming our future and values. Sartre provides us with an outlook on a world of subjectivity and involvement. He grants us the idea that the only thing stopping us from attaining what we want is ourselves, and gives us a sense of hope and motivation to take advantage of the freedom and responsibility that lies heavily upon our shoulders.