The growth of man's freedom and identity in Western philosophy
Sauvayre, Pascal Emile
MetadataShow full item record
Free will and determinism have become core intellectual problems of Western philosophy and psychology. This paper addresses them as expressions of the fundamental human problem of identity. Instead of looking at the twists, turns, and contradictions in the history of the philosophical debate as something to be "solved," they are viewed as natural manifestations of man's struggle to define himself, to define his role in the world.;The theory of separation/individuation is used to account for the ambivalent dynamics of identity formation. Applied to the philosophy of freedom, therefore, the Greeks' treatment of the concept of cosmic fate is explained as an expression of man's search for his identity in relation to the cosmos. On one hand Oedipus wished to establish his identity by separating himself from the cosmos and defying his fate, but for the Greeks that wish was complemented by the fear of being isolated, and the experience of belonging to the greater cosmos. The same ambivalence is explored through the Christian philosophers' relationship to God, wishing to be separate as well as to belong to Him. The meanings of freedom and divine Providence varied according to the importance that each philosopher put on one or the other side of the dynamic. After declaring his independence from God in modern philosophy, man has tried to find himself in his ambivalent relationship with nature, which he has paradoxically intended to dominate by recognizing his dependence on its "laws.".;Finally, in an effort to highlight man's current identity struggles, a selection of contemporary philosophers is used to speculate on how to incorporate both sides of this dynamic. Is is suggested that this might allow us to integrate both aspects of the freedom vs. determinism debate. That is, by experiencing his simultaneous distinctiveness from, and connectedness to, the world, man naturally integrates the contradictory claims of freedom and determinism as two equally significant expressions of himself.