(Un)Freedom of Existence

Continuing on from the question of the freedom of the will we should also pose the question of “the freedom of existence”. As regards the beginning of one’s own existence no one has ever enjoyed the freedom to consent to or to refuse this latter. But as regards the end of existence we do generally gain, in the course of growing up, at least an abstract freedom (freedom of decision and freedom of action) not to have to continue to exist any longer.

But, even there where a will to put an end to existence manifests itself, we can speak only in a very qualified and conditional sense of “freedom” once we take into account the sub-personal, bionomic will to survival which holds us firmly in existence even where we wish to quit this latter.

In short: We were absolutely unfree not to begin to exist and we are only qualifiedly and conditionally free to put an end to this existence.

Cazalis, Henri (1840–1909)

It is to àCazalis that we owe a lucid insight into the structural unfreedom of both the beginning and the end of existence. In contrast to Sartre, who entirely fails to do justice to this problem when he attempts to offset our structural incapacity to choose the beginning of our own existence by citing our capacity to choose, at any moment, the option of suicide. At the same time Cazalis demands that that natural existential constitution and those personal faculties which were randomly endowed upon each of us should be susceptible of enhancement: “Where, though, am I free upon this earth? Did I possess the freedom to be born or not to be born? Am I free not to have to die? Do I possess the freedom to alter my brain, my physical form and the natural faculties which were endowed upon me at and through my birth?”

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