Freedom and Liberty
The three philosophers Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Hannah Arendt all have opinions and viewpoints about the ideas freedom and liberty. This paper will examine relevant passages from Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Sartre’s Existentialism and Human Emotions, and Arendt’s What is Freedom. Along with looking at the three texts, the philosopher’s views on freedom and liberty will be examined, as well as my own personal thoughts. Out of the three views of freedom, I would agree with Beauvoir’s theory because it addresses both the social and individual choice to be free.
Beauvoir’s view of freedom is that there is both a social and individual influence on our ability to be free. Beauvoir is against the idea of a natural essence, but instead believes that society creates a certain identity which influences people but does not limit people on one way to act. Everyone is free to choose his or her own actions. No one can rightfully choose an action for someone else, which is our freedom as human beings. Beauvoir mentions that, “along with the ethical urge of each individual to affirm his subjective existence, there is also the temptation to forgo liberty and become a thing. This is an inauspicious road, and he who takes it…becomes henceforth the creature of another’s will…and deprived of every value” (xlv). This means that there are many temptations to give up one’s liberty, and those that choose to give up their liberty are controlled by others. Although it is easier to give up liberty than to affirm ones subjective existence, in doing so also denies ones free will. To deny ones free will is in “bad faith” and an inauthentic mode of existence (xlviii). The reason “bad faith” is seen as an inauthentic mode of existence is because when one gives up liberty, they are not fulfilling full capacities of themselves. Those who give up liberty are not being who they truly are or what they potentially could be. Beauvoir wants everyone to fully accept their subjectivity and realize that they have liberty and freedom. In the text, she relates this to women becoming fully subjects instead of objects to men (liv). The idea of women being seen as only objects suggests that women do not have full subjectivity, which Beauvoir is strongly against.
I agree with this view of freedom that it is not only a social or individual choice, but is a combination of the two. Many sources try to influence people’s actions, but the individual ultimately decides their own choices. The individual choice to be free is a personal choice made by everyone on who he or she is and who he or she will become. The social choice to be free is one that is also individual, but has social influence. One is influenced by society’s values and norms, but still is independent in making the decision by his or her self. Although one may be influenced to conform to others in society, I believe that it is much more noble to be truthful to oneself and be ones own person.
Many of Beauvoir’s opinions are seen as an extension of Sartre’s. Sartre is an existentialist and also a strong believer in the idea that people are who they are because of the choices they make. For example, a coward is not born a coward, but becomes one through his or her actions (35). Beauvoir also agrees with this idea that people are in charge of their subjectivity. Humans are responsible for themselves and the choices they make because they are given the gift of free will. Every choice that one makes has a cause and effect outcome. By choosing one option over another, one sets an example for others. Therefore, every choice made influences another’s choice. Although people are influenced by other people’s choices, they still have their own freedom and free will to choose what they please. Going against free will is an inauthentic mode of existence, because in doing so forgoes ones liberty. By denying ones free will, one is making a “dishonest”...
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