Sartre Online - The Ultimate Sartrean Resource: Freedom and Facticity
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Freedom and Facticity

Jean-Paul Sartre is a demoniacal philosopher of freedom. As Hakim writes, freedom is Sartre's main key to the understanding of man: through freedom, meaning enters into the world. We recall that he asserts that, at the start, man simply is. Thus the vocation of the Sartrean man is nothing else but the perpetual process of self-creation. Sartrean freedom is one which excuses no one.

Man is not free not to be free. The heavy burden of this freedom perpetually haunts man. An oft-quoted phrase encapsulates this burden: Man condemned to be free carries the whole world.

Absolute freedom is thus ultimately translated into unlimited responsibility. Man, as completely free, has the complete responsibility over his freedom. As a result of the burden of his immense responsibility, man experiences anguish, abandonment, and despair. Anguish refers to the feeling that man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility, upon the realization of the almost unbearable responsibility placed on his shoulders, a responsibility not only for himself but for all. Sartre has this to say about anguish:

The Existentialists say at once that man is anguish. What this means is this: the man who involved himself and who realizes that he is not only the person he chooses to be, but also a lawmaker who is, at the same time, choosing all mankind as well as himself, cannot escape the feeling of his total and deep responsibility.

Sartre describes abandonment or forlornness as nothing else but the acceptance of the fact that man is alone in a frightening cosmos, left without a God, and that he must draw all consequences of the absence of God right to the end. We find in his lecture Existentialism is a Humanism a description of forlorness:

When we speak of "forlornness," a term Heidegger was fond of, we mean only that God does not exist and that we have to face all the consequences of this.

Finally, despair means that "we shall confine ourselves to reckoning only with what depends upon our will, or on the ensemble of probabilities which make our action possible."

Above all these, man is a being in situation. Fr. John Garduce defines situation as "the contingency of freedom in the plenum of being of the world."

Freedom then is limited by facticity. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre considered one's place, body, past, position, and fundamental relationship to the Other as among the facticities of freedom.

Early Sartre considered the Other as a danger to one's freedom. The look of the Other objectifies one, and endangers his subjectivity. However, a person has an option whether to absorb the Other's freedom while keeping the Other's freedom intact, as in the case of love, or to try to objectify him, as in the case of sadism. The pessimism of the early Sartre as to the establishment of an authentic community is explicated at the end of his play, No Exit, when Garcin said that hell is other people. Hakim writes:

Being-for-another belongs to the very being of man. Yet the moment this relationship is analyzed, it is seen that the Other pushes against my freedom and circumscribes it. At one and the same time, the Other, who helps establish my freedom, also destroys it; being-for-itself and being-for-another shatter each other.

This said, it is interesting to note that even in his earlier writings, Sartre was already willing to admit the possibility of a we-consciousness arising from a confrontation with others. Just as humanity becomes an us-object in the presence of the gaze of a God, so can a class become a we-subject when confronted by an oppressor. Indeed, conflict is the original meaning of being-for-others.

We will see in the next chapter that the interplay between freedom and facticity is at the middle of the discussion on authenticity. Bad faith ultimately revolves around the relationship that exists between freedom and facticity in view of the horrifying responsibility that haunts the very existence of man.

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