Jean-Paul Sartre's concept of freedom.
Merrill, Stephen L.
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The purpose of this thesis is to present an exposition and interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre's concept of freedom, as expressed in his major philosophical writings. This purpose calls for a consideration of the relationship between freedom and some of Sartre's other basic ontological concepts. The "other" concepts are those relating specifically to Sartre's theory of consciousness. To explore and make explicit the fundamental structures of consciousness is to take the front door into an understanding of Sartre's concept of freedom. Chapter II shows that the meaning of Sartre's concept of freedom widely diverges from various traditional and popular interpretations of freedom. It is concluded that the term freedom is intimately bound up with Sartre's conception of consciousness and that a consciousness which is free is, first, free because no determining motives affect the activities of consciousness and, second, consciousness is able to choose the "motives" which it pleases. In Chapter III it is learned that the cardinal activity of consciousness is its intentionality, that consciousness is always consciousness of something. The distinction is made between reflective and pre-reflective consciousness. It is further indicated in this chapter Sartre's rejection of a transcendental unifying and individualizing Ego and his replacement of it with a transcendent Ego, which, for Sartre, becomes an object for consciousness like any other object. In Chapter IV Sartre's ontology is developed by an analysis of all that which is not consciousness, or in Sartre's terminology, a being-in-itself. The in-it self is any transcendent object and its being is characterized by a massive, full identity with itself; being-in-itself is self-consistent, uncreated, and neither passivity nor activity. In Chapter V consciousness is identified with being-for-itself. Being-for-itself is empty of content, must make itself be, is its own nothingness, and introduces negations and temporality into the world. Consciousness will never be what it lacks, for its being lies outside, at a distance, and beyond; it is defined as not being that being. Ontologically speaking, man's being is nothingness. Chapter VI identifies Sartre's notion of freedom with the being of consciousness. Thus one meaning of Sartre's notion of freedom takes on an ontological dimension; man is freedom. The other meaning of freedom is assigned to the necessary activity of consciousness. This activity is characterized by the necessary, unceasing, yet interminable, desire of consciousness to choose or assume its own being, its essence. It has been objected by Wilfrid Desan that Sartre has made freedom itself into the essence of man. This thesis concludes, however, that only in defining freedom has Sartre made freedom an essence. Even in this sense, Sartre has made freedom an essence only if one is willing to identify man's ontological "condition" with the traditional notion of a fundamental "nature" of man. Desan further objects that Sartre's notion of "absolute" freedom results in a contradiction since absolute means unlimited, and Sartre's freedom is limited by freedom itself. The thesis concludes that this contradiction may be avoided by simply refraining from calling Sartre's concept of freedom "absolute" and accepting, along with Sartre, the existential condition that freedom is limited by one thing, namely, freedom itself. A final critical evaluation is made concerning the unavoidable conflict between Sartre's philosophy and philosophizing. It is asserted that this conflict is a conflict between fact and definition. It is the conflict between the fact of freedom and Sartre's definition of this fact.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University