In Sebastian Luft & Søren Overgaard (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology. Routledge (2011)
Human freedom was Jean-Paul Sartre’s central philosophical preoccupation throughout his career. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the cornerstone of his moral and political thought, Being and Nothingness, contains an extensive and subtle account of the metaphysical freedom that he considered fundamental to the kind of existence that humans have. Although rooted in phenomenology, Sartre’s account of freedom draws very little on analysis of the experience of freedom itself. It is rather based on a general phenomenological account of perceptual experience and the motivation of action. The result is one of the most sophisticated portrayals of freedom in Western philosophical literature. It is certainly the most detailed account of freedom given by any of those philosophers who made the description of experience their central philosophical method. This claim is more usually made for Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s account of freedom, which he presents in critical dialogue with Sartre’s, but as we will see his account stops short of a full phenomenology of agency and owes its plausibility and popularity in part to its author having asked one question too few.
Keywords Freedom  Phenomenology  Sartre  Merleau-Ponty
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