Find Life Purpose

Take More Responsibility

Welcome back! During our previous lesson, we concluded that since your existence precedes, you have the freedom to form your essence.

But there is a question that might naturally arise, and one existentialists are often accused with. If everyone is so free, does it mean people can just do whatever they want? Wouldn't that lead to a chaotic permissiveness?

The short answer is No. As to that freedom corresponds a coextensive responsibility. And today we will explore its individualistic and collectivistic sides.

As you are the only one who designs yourself - you have to take responsibility for what you created. However, we often tend to blame our behavior, habits, and choices on other determinants: social circumstances or genes.

Think of the situations or your own characteristics that you blamed on external events or people without seeing your role in it? 

For example, blaming my boss for unfair pay, my wife for the stress in our relationship, my father's genes for being too impulsive...

But with the notion of freedom - you have to see your role in those processes. It is not to say that external events don't matter. It only means that it's still you who decides: how to act and how to react. For an existentialist, only a coward himself is responsible for his cowardice.

Leaving the responsibility on others would make sense only if you were an independent observer or a machine governed by others. But that is not true. You are a participant in this life.

Think again about the situations you mentioned in the previous question. How could reframe them to take more responsibility?

You always have to remind yourself that even though you cannot be in charge of the external events - you are in charge of who you are, what you say, and how you behave.

Coming back to the question of potential chaos with freedom, it is also worth mentioning the responsibility for society. "In fashioning myself, I fashion humanity". Who you marry, what party you support, and so on must reflect your ideas of the world. In existential philosophy, one must choose only what he would want the whole of humanity to choose.

Such responsibility does, inevitably, bring some anxiety. But it should be seen only as a part of the action, not a barrier. Because it encourages you to make thought-through choices.

For if you are free - you are responsible. Live this day with such a notion in mind. Till the next lesson, my friend!

Jean Paul Sartre

French philosopher, novelist, and playwright, best known as the leading exponent of existentialism in the 20th century. In 1964 he declined the Nobel Prize for Literature, which had been awarded to him “for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age.”

Source: Britannica

Explore More

Subscribe to a newsletter.
Get Exclusive Lessons once a week

Here's a small gift from us🎁
Get your FREE PDF eBook
with Stoic exercises

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form