A lot of thinkers have sought to understand how independence derives from obligation and whether we, as human beings, can truly be free agents by attempting to look at the forces that connect individuals to free will. This paper would also look at the theories of Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus and Peterson on equality and obligation.
Why resentment comes in Nietzsche’s theory has shown, over time, to be very intricate and philosophical, not as easy to understand. Not only are they elusive, but it is also not shocking to find conflicting points in the process of looking at his ideas. His philosophical works have therefore over time been centrally placed especially since his works in the later years generally contradict the works that he wrote earlier on.
Part of his contradictory works could be linked to the fact that he tries to explore a very controversial area; free will as described by Leiter (2007). It is quite possible that at one point he feels there is a chance at freedom and being free and at another different given time, he feels that there may be no such thing as free will. It is plausible that no one can be totally independent from their moral responsibility. Nietzsche explains that being a sufficient free agent, one would need to be the cause of oneself, which is quite unachievable in reality, and thus it is not quite possible that one can completely be a free agent. According to Leiter (2007), the very concept that Nietzsche tries to bring out, of not being able to be free agents based on the fact that one cannot because of oneself is in itself quite contradictory and complex to say the least.
In regards to freedom and responsibility, he also points out that mortals do not have adequate self-control over the actions that they choose to engage in, in order to claim that they were actually acting out these actions out of their own free will. Hence, this assumption taken into consideration with his first one on the lack of oneself therein means that human beings lack self-cause which satisfactorily endorses provenances and any allegations thereof of any ethical accountability. Nietzsche argues out that it is our customs and traditions, both ethically and religiously that conspire to keep individuals from ever becoming free agents as Leiter (2007) describes. Individuals are therefore bound by what their traditions want them to do and the consequent repercussions in the case that they do not live by the rules of ethics or religion.
Sartre on the other hand seemed to be of the view that all individuals are always free and thus is sufficiently responsible for their actions as well as their circumstances. He further on points out that we may not be responsible for finding ourselves in this world but we bear the responsibility of what happens to us as we exist thereafter as Churchill (2014) explains. He seems to have a point here as individuals have no control whatsoever in making a decision on existing but they are actually in total command of their existence. As an atheist, Sartre is of the belief that without the belief that there is a supreme being in control of the universe, individuals would not live under the presence that their lives are supposed to be lived in accordance to some ostentatious celestial plan.
This would certainly mean that without the belief that there is this supreme power running the universe, people would definitely live in the knowledge that whatever happens to them whether good or bad would be their own doing and not the works of some external forces that are apparently beyond their control. The lack of this supreme being would therefore mean that there is nothing that governs right from wrong which would equate to individuals being free agents who decide what is morally upright or wrong and in this sense therefore, they would be solely responsible for whatever happened to them, their actions and the circumstances they might find themselves into according to their understanding of right and wrong, good and evil.
He happened to share most of his ideologies with Camus and the two felt that individuals must make a choice to exist in this world and more so hold it up to themselves to project their own meaning to the world so they can be able to understand it better according to Solomon (2001). This would mean people being free agents acting out of their own free will and bearing the burden that comes with freedom which is an appalling, incapacitating, accountability to exist and act realistically. Sartre and Camus were philosophically drawn together by the idea of freedom and the burden of responsibility which they seemed to unanimously agree on.
Quite clearly, all the four philosophers seem to think that the presence of traditions and religious and ethical beliefs have played a major role in ensuring people do not get to practice their own free will and live as free agents. It is however difficult and almost impossible to picture what a world with free agents would be like. Individual persons would be responsible for deciding what was right or wrong and this would ultimately mean that each and every individual would have varied ideologies on what was right and what was wrong. What would appear morally right to one person would be considered as morally wrong to another and thus still there wouldn’t be so much of that free will after all as Solomon (2014) explains. It is for this controversial reason that Nietzsche may have been branded a contradictory philosopher although it is quite not easy to define how much freedom and responsibility there is in free will.
It also seems that if freedom were to be given to all individuals and the same individuals held accountable for their actions, then there would definitely emerge the issue of resentment. Freedom is unanimous to all individuals, hypothetically, but would their thoughts be in sync with one another’s? Would it be possible for them to agree on what would be right and wrong? Wouldn’t that be a compromise to the definition of freedom and free will? It would definitely bring about the question of whether free will existed anymore, leading to resentment as people would want what they believe in construed as what is right and wrong. Eventually, certain individuals would have the upper hand and impose their free thoughts on the rest and eventually a system would have been created where there was no acting out of free will and someone was in authority.
In as such, it is therefore a question of just how much does the pursuit for free will coupled by the weight of the responsibility of freedom has to do with gender and resentment. Women have been viewed as the inferior weaker gender for a long time now. Their actions more stringently governed by traditions and costume and authority harshly clouding their attempts to be free and heard. It is however possible to point out that over the centuries, a lot has changed in regard to gender and freedom. At one point, it was not even possible for women to choose who their leaders would be, and a woman owning property was even a more laughable scenario. This has most certainly brought a lot of contradictions as more movements that sought to empower women were formed and gender equality and equity has been quite sang in the latter years. While this had most definitely raised the alarm on the negligence of the girl child and more so her suppressed voice, it has also angered the male gender who might be of the sentiment that the whole idea of liberating the female is overbearing to say the least.
Gender might plausibly be one of the boxes that have individuals locked in as is religion or ethical standings. One cannot simply act in a certain manner because they are of a particular gender, one is not allowed in certain places because, well, gender does not allow it. Gender biasness and particularly towards the female is no strange topic. Women have been denied to air voices on matters concerning politics because they are simply women. As Peterson put it, it is beyond an individual’s reach and power to control who they are but what they do with who they are is what they need not blame anyone for. Sartre also points out that no one has control on finding themselves as part of this universe but they sure can control how they live and what becomes of them as they exist. Probably what women fight for; to make their own mark in their own way and to have a voice and an opinion.
While all everyone is trying to do is earn their freedom and be a free agent, why would there be resentment really? Is it that there are double standards when it comes to freedom? I mean, men can be quite as free as they want to be but for women, there is some degree of freedom that is attainable. Why would there be any sort of resentment towards a goal that is set to make the world a better place void of any authority only free will and ones responsibility towards their actions and situations? This would only take us back to Nietzsche, whose writings despite being considered contradictory may have found it too hard to explain the concept of free will. He might actually have a very solid point by pointing out that there is no such thing as free will really.
The knowledge that we exist comes together with the understanding that there are certain forms of tradition that we must follow and adhere to. From the moment individuals are able to tell of their own existence, they are also hit with the reality of religious perspectives, traditional bindings, gender roles and a lot of other aspects that will infiltrate their minds and tie them down to a specific way of life. Perhaps it is the will to break away from this, and the criticism from those who ensure that authority is followed to the latter that builds resentment or the idea that the other person is more ambitious and too focused on achieving their freedom that brings about umbrage and bitterness. It does make more sense that an individual setting a goal and acting in such a way that the goal is achieved can be quite the definition of free will. Working towards a goal, set by some other individual cannot really be defined as free will.
In light of finding a solution for the resentment, it is important for individuals to will themselves to the affirmation that they are solely responsible for themselves as individuals. It is also fundamental that they understand that freedom does not mean being in a state of denial as pertaining to one’s instincts. In the event that free will was attainable, there would be a need for all aspects that are a hindrance towards the achievement of free will to be categorically eliminated as this would also aid in the elimination of resentment. This would include religious and traditional ties, gender roles and other ethical aspects as well. This simply means that there is need to be freed from reliance on this freedom binding aspect while at the same time being able to achieve freedom to emphatically rebuff them. There is therefore no easier solution to fight resentment as pertaining to gender and freedom through to responsibility but via the freeing of the mind from any aspects that bind it to believe that there is actually no free will. Irrespective of this, it is quite justifiable that there is no free will and that means that individuals remain slaves of aspects that have been created by others for them.
In conclusion, realistically, achieving free will for the human race is a long shot away especially in respect to being able to make individual decisions without having to worry about the rest of the population. However, if we choose to understand free will as our capacities to set goals and work towards the achieving of these goals, then a certain degree of freedom is certainly achieved. Also, freeing ourselves from the very nature of the traditions and customers that bind us and being able to freely reject them allows us to enjoy free will and at the same time gives us a sense of responsibility towards our actions as individuals. Resentment in regard to gender in this case, only shows the difficulty in being wholly freed especially from our own minds.
Churchill, S. & Reynolds, J. (2014). Jean-Paul Sartre: Key Concepts. London/New York: Routledge.
Leiter, B. (2007). Nietzsche’s Theory of Free Will. Philosopher’ Imprint.
Solomon, R. C. (2001). From Rationalism to Existentialism: The Existentialists and Their Nineteenth Century Backgrounds. Rowman and Littlefield.