Jean-Paul Sartre… the great novelist, playwright, philosopher & existentialist. Perhaps the most influential thinker of the 20th century. His philosophical ideas changed the way we think of the world & changed the way philosophy is undertaken. One of my favourite non-philosophical quotes from him is this:
“If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I am still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically.”
I love that. He says he wasn’t really interested in changing the world with his ideas – he simply wanted to seduce women. You have to love the French.
Yet in all seriousness, his ideas have changed how we look at the world. One of the fundamental ideas of his philosophy is The Constraint Of Freedom. He explains this idea masterfully in his greatest work: Being & Nothingness. The idea is simply this: that we as human beings have been given free will to Choose anything we please – except for one thing. We have no Choice but to Choose. Let me illustrate this idea for you.
Imagine you are walking along a path and you come to a fork in the road. You have before you four choices. You can either go left, go right, return the way you came or stop moving altogether. No matter what you do, you are forced to Choose something. Even if you Choose to do nothing (to stop moving), you are still making a Choice!
Sartre summed up his idea of Individual Freedom like this: “Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you.” Basically, the world throws situations at you and every moment you have to Choose how you are going to react to each situation. In essence, you have no Choice but to Choose.
Constrained by our own freedom.
It seems like an obvious thing at face value. But it has a profound effect on how an Individual sees the world when we are consciously thinking of our Constraint of Freedom.
What sort of Choices do you make & how do you deal with what life throws at you? Choose to leave me a comment below & let’s all start having an amazing discussion on this topic.