Explain what Jean-Paul Sartre meant by the statement "Man is condemned to be free".

Topics: Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism, Philosophy Pages: 3 (1041 words) Published: June 18, 2014

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said "We are damned (condemned) to be free". Explain what he meant by this statement. provide your interpretation of Sartre's work
apply what you've learnt already
consider the argument for and against the question (with evidence)

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher and was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy. His major philosophical work, “Being and Nothingness” and his famous talk, “Existentialism is a Humanism”, is where he emphasised the statement “Man is condemned to be free”. The statement appears to be a juxtaposition of language because 'freedom' often has positive connotations while 'condemned' provides the opposite feeling. Sartre used the term 'condemned' as he believed we have no choice in the matter of being free, and being free (even if against our will) means we are responsible for all our actions. Being responsible for our actions - without having a choice about being free to choose - is a form of condemnation. Us having to accept full responsibility for our actions includes us not being able to blame those around us - such as family, teachers and the government - for our situation. In summary, man is condemned because "he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does" (Kaufmann). In the face of this responsibility, many humans turn to religion. This allows us to feel answerable to a higher being. However, Sartre was not a believer in God; this could be because of the atrocities he witnessed first-hand during the Second World War while serving in the French army. His experiences taught him that "God is silent in the face of absurdity and horror. Because of this we are condemned to face life alone and with this comes absolute freedom and the chilling responsibility that comes with it." If God truly doesn't exist then our actions aren't really limited by His...
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