You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
— Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On
We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.
— Jean-Paul Sartre (trans. Bernard Frechtman), Existentialism is a Humanism
This is the underlying take-home point from my previous post. I buried the link at the end, but it’s the most worthwhile read of anything I linked to:
- Bad faith (existentialism) (Wikipedia)
Simply put: we’re all fundamentally free to act as we see fit, influenced by the incentives provided to us, and thus we’re all fundamentally responsible for the consequences of our actions. From the wiki page:
A critical claim in existentialist thought is that individuals are always free to make choices and guide their lives towards their own chosen goal or “project”. The claim holds that individuals cannot escape this freedom, even in overwhelming circumstances. For instance, even an empire’s colonized victims possess choices: to submit to rule; to negotiate; to act in complicity; to resist nonviolently; or to counter-attack.
Although circumstances may limit individuals (facticity), they cannot force persons as radically free beings to follow one course over another. For this reason, individuals choose in anguish: they know that they must make a choice, and that it will have consequences. For Sartre, to claim that one amongst many conscious possibilities takes undeniable precedence (for instance, “I cannot risk my life, because I must support my family”) is to assume the role of an object in the world, merely at the mercy of circumstance—a being-in-itself that is only its own facticity.
One must not exercise bad faith by denying the self’s freedom of choice and accountability. Taking on the burden of personal accountability in all situations is an intimidating proposition – by pointing out the freedom of the individual Sartre seeks to demonstrate the social roles and moral systems we adopt to protect us from being morally accountable for our actions.
Doesn’t sound fair, does it? Tough shit: “fair” only matters in baseball.