Compare and Contrast Sartre and de Beauvoir’s Accounts of Freedom

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Daniel Boehm 42098211

Compare and contrast Sartre and de Beauvoir’s accounts of freedom. To what extent are we equally free? How does our relation with others restrict or enhance our freedom? What does de Beauvoir add to Sartre’s account? Which do you find more convincing?

Freedom is undeniably one of the major thoughts which have driven human kind to great pursuits and maintains to be a crucial tenet in human life. It is the true synonym for life, for what is life without one’s ability to express individuality. An upset to freedom provokes mass revolutions and has been fundamental to why countries have meddled in each other’s affairs. Many philosophers have attempted to go deep into the psychology of freedom and the act of being free, but the two most prominent in this field are Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, who worked together extensively and had a lifelong relationship.

Jean-Paul Sartre maintains a view in which that all humans are necessarily free. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre upends the conventional view of freedom and states that it is impossible for a human to not be free. In his view, to not be free is the same as to ‘cease to be’. Sartre’s existentialism views are focused on the duality of the Being-for-itself and the Being-in-itself, and his account of consciousness is merely that consciousness is always consciousness of something and that it cannot exist as consciousness itself. Consciousness is simply nothing in the views of Sartre. Simone de Beauvoir has very similar views on freedom. She adopts Sartre’s ideas on existentialism and so also claims that freedom is just human existence. However De Beauvoir adds to this by saying that not every situation is the same in regards to freedom, such as women in a harem. Women in a harem are compared to mind-sets of children because they are kept in a state of “servitude and ignorance”. Children are seen to be excluded from holding responsibility and are seen to escape the “anguish of freedom” through their innocence. Another example of this mind-set is of how slaves don’t raise to the consciousness of their slavery, and are caught in “believing” that they are not free consciously which is merely ignorance reinforced by dogma of their entrapment. They have no opportunity to even get to contemplate a possibility of freedom due to their conditioning or acclimatization.

Sartre claims that to exist is to be free, and that this quality is directly attributed to being human. Because we can never stop self-definition we are free to choose whatever conscious projection we choose to see in the world, but de Beauvoir states that this is limiting in the sense that freedom can never then be achieved as we are always pursuing our own growth and ‘existential projects’. She goes on to explain how there is only engaged freedom, the act of interacting directly with the world through one’s intention of freedom. De Beauvoir explains that true expression of being human also embodies hope, for when someone is placed in a situation of restriction or control such as a harem or slavery, out of this emerges a chance for liberation or freedom. She explains freedom to be joyful expression of life and to be committed to this is to be committed to freedom. She comes to the realization that one can never be a fully completed self and that all humans will have a desire for growth. In aiming for a goal and constantly having a sense of having to gain more this is freedom. Sartre argues that the relationship between that which limits our freedom and that which doesn’t is simply our mind-set, which in itself is propelled by freedom. We have the freedom to see a cliff face as limiting us, or we have the freedom to use the cliff face to allow us freedom. The argument here is the subjective view each individual has on the world and the way they view the world is what constitutes their freedom. Freedom then is seen not as something that you are born with or entrusted with, but...
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