Self Vs. Sartre: The Concept Of Self

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One of the major questions of philosophy concerns the concept of self, and whether we, as humans, function as individual selves or as one greater, universal self. If a true self does exist, another question arises around freedom and, more specifically, to what extent is an individual free to make choices that affect the rest of their life. At one extreme, a person could argue that one does not have any freedom whatsoever, and that all the events of life are predestined and would occur regardless of the choices one makes. At the opposite end of the spectrum would be a person who argues that a human being is free to live whatever life they choose without any limitations. Sartre, based on his work “Basic Writings of Existentialism” appears to …show more content…
To elaborate, there is no universal attribute or essence that applies to the whole human race. Not all humans walk on two legs or have five senses. There are always exceptions to the rule. In his own words, “man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and only afterwards, defines himself” (Sartre 345). Sartre, based on the lack of essence, believes that humans are essentially free to make many choices in life regarding the actions they take. What one becomes, or one’s identity, is a result of these …show more content…
According to Sartre in this article, decisions cannot be made on abstract moral principles because these moral principles are too generalized directly apply to concrete realities. More specifically, he states, “If values are vague, and if they are always too broad for the concrete and specific case we are considering, the only thing left for us is to trust our instincts” (Sartre 351). People, without moral principles, would not feel restricted to act in a certain “morally correct” way, for there would be no “morally correct” way. As Sartre believes, each particular situation is subject to an individual’s interpretation. The individual, then, has the freedom to act in any way they wish, and also the freedom to judge, based off of the responses of others and their own ethical anguish, whether or not they made the best possible decision. One could argue that Sartre is wrong in this aspect, as humans are born with an innate ability to distinguish right from wrong, and are driven toward what is right. This is not a human essence, though. There are humans incapable of discerning between the two, and even a person who can make the distinction still, at times, acts in a contradictory

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