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Freedom Versus Determinism Freud Versus Sartre

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    The person portrayed in The Scream clearly is in distress, they looked extremely surprised and scared. This is because they have just realized that they have been living in-authentically, that is, they have set certain parameters to live by that has ultimately affected, and taken away , their freedom. This debate about whether or not we have freedom in the decisions that we make is one that Sartre and Freud both are strongly opinionated about. Freud, being a soft determinist, claims that much of what we do, especially the things that define our lives, is determined.

    Sartre on the other hand says that we have so much freedom that it scares us and the person in the scream is in anguish due to how much freedom he just realized he has. Ultimately, Sartre’s theories will disprove Freud’s, showing us that we are the ones who have control over our own fate and that we are always free. Freud begins by claiming that there are 3 entities that make up our actions: the Id, Ego, and SuperEgo. The Id is our natural instinct, which acts upon its need for immediate gratification; it knows what it wants, and it wants it now.

    The Ego is our rationality, the part of our self that is self-aware, and ultimately decides what we do. The superego is the Tyrant that is constantly battling our Id, basically what society has established as acceptable social conduct. With these defined Freud can elucidate his opinions on the fight between nature and culture. According to Freud, the Superego constantly restricts the Id, just as Culture restricts our natural instincts. This alludes to Freud’s assertion that our actions are thus determined by society, we don’t have complete freedom.

    However say the Superego were a law: don’t steal. It’s clear that at any time I could steal from someone if I wanted, undermining the law and thus showing we have that freedom. Further, the superego may dictate that I shouldn’t rip my clothes off, running around naked, but Freud’s Ego is what ultimately decides whether we do something or not. The Rational Ego in this case is the voice telling us either to obey the Superego, or side with our desires, the Id.

    Because of the presence of this voice, however, we as the human are either choosing to follow our instincts or to abide by social boundaries, and thus it is always our choice, we have free will. Freud Continues his determinist argument with psychosexual stages: Being disrupted at certain early stages of our life is out of our control, but it can correspond to our character later in life, thus determining our actions. For example, if a child’s development is disrupted in the “anal” Stage, they will be especially analy retentive as an adult.

    However these correlations have been shown to be arbitrary, as one could be inclined towards being good at math through DNA or other reasons, instead of their retentiveness due to their Anal stage disruption. Finally, Freud identifies “Ontogenic history,” our own personal history which continually influences us and defines our personality. This point contains validity, because I will not strip naked and run around even though I should theoretically be able to.

    My personal history, however, has taught me that I shouldn’t thus I am obeying the SuperEgo, and it was determined by my upbringing that I should do so. However ultimately this point is invalid because I made conscious choices earlier to bow down to the SuperEgo, which led me to decide not to strip naked. Ergo the Superego’s deterministic power is undermined because at some point I had to choose to follow it voluntarily, and thus it didn’t determine my actions.

    Sartre begins with the foundation of “Existence precedes Essence” he denies god’s existence, thus leaving humans alone, forced to create our own essences, defined by our actions. If our essence existed before we did, then we were made to fulfill a specific purpose, and this is not true, because there was no God to conceive this essence before we existed. However, this argument does not explain for example a person’s DNA. DNA is a part of which we are, and influences who we are long before we are able to make our own decisions.

    Also, there are cases in which it is physically impossible to determine our own essence such as the Jews in the Holocaust whose freedom was removed far beforehand. Additionally, it can be argued that when we make decisions we define ourselves, but something has to make these decisions. In a cyclical Nature, our character defines our decisions as equally as our decisions define our character. But Ultimately, I believe that the traits that make up our character can defy what theoretically should be determined based on our DNA or where we come from.

    I believe in the modern view of defining our own lives and making our own decisions based off of whatever situation we find ourselves in, and that is what defines our self. These decisions, Sartre argues, give us ultimate freedom however; the sudden lack of boundaries gives us more freedom than we can handle, or desire. This is called “Monstrous Freedom. ” For example, a man walking on a tall bridge looks over the edge and is suddenly terrified because the only thing stopping him from jumping was himself, and he didn’t know if he was strong enough to do so.

    This is directly pointing to the anguish that Sartre identifies, created by our monstrous freedom, the anguish manifests itself within the concept of absolute freedom. Thus all of our perceived boundaries are our own parameters that we set for ourselves to protect ourselves against this anguish, and these are what cause us to live in-authentically. This is what the scream shows, the man realizing that we have the power to do whatever we want, which is scary! I personally experience vertigo often, why am I trying to get the very best grades in all of my classes? Is it my own strict parameters? My parents’?

    This thought of giving up though, not following these parameters, is what I’m scared of, because I have convinced myself that these parameters are the ones that I should be following, and the thought of not following them opens up the possibility of freedom, which could cause me to lose my drive and I don’t know if I am strong enough to continue once I upend the door that there is another option. This is why I absolutely ate that thought, because it whose how much freedom I have, and I know that it’s true, I really could do whatever I want. Finally, I recognize the flaw in Freud’s argument through Sartre’s which relates to responsibility.

    If what we do is determined, then we aren’t responsible for it. However I want to believe in freedom, and thus the strongest willed people will survive if we all accept that we have ultimate freedom. We can choose to live as in-authentically as we like in a world where we all have freedom. The Scream’s man is worried about all of the responsibility suddenly on his shoulders, but he realizes that we can choose how much freedom we want to have. When this perfect amount of freedom is found we can optimize ourselves and become more powerful than we ever thought. because of our new responsibility of the freedom we have.

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    Freedom Versus Determinism Freud Versus Sartre. (2016, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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