Following is a brief excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre’s defence of atheistic/ agnostic Existentialism. But, even as a believer, I have found his following passage very profound and almost a ‘theistic’ credo as well (much would have he disliked such a follower!). Apart from the joy of reading excellent prose, it’s quite a humbling as well as a scary thought – that regardless of what we think, our actions do speak for themselves, all the time !
Source: Existentialism is a Humanism
……When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for the entire epoch in which we find ourselves. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole. If I am a worker, for instance, I may choose to join a Christian rather than a Communist trade union. And if, by that membership, I choose to signify that resignation is, after all, the attitude that best becomes a man, that man’s kingdom is not upon this earth, I do not commit myself alone to that view. Resignation is my will for everyone, and my action is, in consequence, a commitment on behalf of all mankind. Or if, to take a more personal case, I decide to marry and to have children, even though this decision proceeds simply from my situation, from my passion or my desire, I am thereby committing not only myself, but humanity as a whole, to the practice of monogamy. I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him to be. In fashioning myself I fashion man.
Though Sartre would regard this state of being as Man being condemned to be free, his rationale for it, nonetheless, does touch upon the sensibilities of responsible (Sattvik, in Hindu speak) actions.
….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. The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He will never regard a grand passion as a destructive torrent upon which a man is swept into certain actions as by fate, and which, therefore, is an excuse for them. He thinks that man is responsible for his passion….
Despite not granting absolute Freewill, and holding man as just one of the three reasons for outcome of an action, Hindu scheme does demand ownership of actions but goes more with the ‘state of mind’ during its performance.
I’d like to think, reflect and write on this further..
For now, I do rejoice and marvel at Sartre’s masterly exposition of his intense ideas, incidentally, anchored still as a theist.