Sartre: The Relationship Between Freedom and AtheismJune 27, 2021
Sartre denies the existence of God with a neat defense.
If the Sovereign were a God, then there would be no personal free subjects. However, man is a free being. So there is no sovereign God. In fact, since humans are not divinely created beings, then there is no blueprint or plan that determines what they will become.
“Man exists first of all, encounters himself, opens up to the world, and then defines himself.” says Sartre. He finds previous atheists wrong because they thought they could remove the concept of God from their system and still continue to talk about human nature and objective values. Rather, “There is no human nature because there is no God to initiate such a notion.” Since there is no human nature to appeal to, you are doomed to be free.
Sartre says you don’t have freedom, you are freedom itself. Freedom is not one of many qualities, but something inherent in our species; because you are re-creating yourself in every moment of your existence. “We are destined to be free,” says Sartre, because freedom is a magnificent human burden. Because with freedom comes responsibility for your life. You can’t blame the environment or God.
During his time in a German prison camp after 1940 and later during the French Resistance, Sartre decided to write in the name of democracy. His main preoccupation since then has been the attempt to link the inherent freedom of human nature with political freedom. Perhaps the most radical conception of freedom in the history of thought is Sartre’s.
You are born into a situation. These features of your existence that you cannot change are called “reality” by Sartre. You were born not in that environment, but in this environment, from these parents, not from those parents. That is, you can view these facts as obligations imposed on your freedom, caused by past events over which you have no control. However, these facts have no meaning until you attribute a meaning to them. Your true freedom comes to the fore in the way you respond to your reality. If you are born into wealth, you can look for ways to continue this lifestyle as you grow up, you can withdraw from this life, become a priest, or fight for the rights of the poor. The same is true for meat. Gender is a biological fact, yet so much of reality says nothing about what it means to be one or the other sex. Thus, scientific facts can tell you very little about how to live your life. You still have considerable freedom to determine what you get out of your life.
Sartre quotes Dostoevsky’s statement: “If there is no God, everything is allowed. There are no objective values or religious orders to appeal to or address.” In a clear and enlightened realm of values, neither behind us nor ahead of us, there is no means to justify us or to find excuses.” Sartre says.
Sartre tells the story of a poor orphan man who had an unfortunate love affair and was deprived of his military career because he failed an exam. The man believes his disastrous situation is a sign that he must serve God and becomes a Jesuit priest. According to Sartre, this meaning is the meaning that this individual chooses to give to these experiences. From another angle, for example, the man could easily have decided that these events meant that they had to be revolutionary. There is no moral almanac that tells an individual what to do. The main idea of Sartre’s philosophy is that individuals attach meaning to facts by deciding how to act.
In Essays on Existentialism, Sartre mentions that man is “thrown into Existence” without choosing himself: “If man cannot be defined and determined as the existentialist sees himself, it is because man is nothing in the first place. Man will only become something later on and will bring about what he will become. ”
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; “Understanding Philosophy in All Its Aspects” by Kennet Shouler