Please check my reasoning!
Existentialism says that man is what he wills himself to be, and needs to decide his own morality. There is no overarching maxim that can a priori guide his moral judgements, and that it is up to each man to make his ethical decisions, in good faith (that is, without any external passions or influences) and in free commitment (the idea that each man is free to commit himself to whatever he thinks is the right way to live life). Sartre draws a parallel, showing how making an ethical decision is just like making a painting or choosing a scientific hypothesis. There’s no a priori rule telling you what to do - you must decide using your free will, and the judgement is his final decision, nothing more and nothing less.
Both Sarte and de Beauvoir emphasise how freedom is the only end goal, and that to will one’s own freedom is to will the freedom of others. Reasons for such an assertion are:
- Other people give us meaning (if other people are not free to appreciate us or interact with us but are rather forced, we lose meaning)
- Lots of people go to work every day to will our freedom (like politicians and what not)
They also say that no matter what one chooses to do, man is condemned to be free. Every decision a man makes that is in good faith and free commitment will need to serve the purpose of willing the freedom of others, else it is not a valid decision and is an error.
Each of us is both a subject (in our perspective) and an object (to others). When someone treats another group of people as objects only, denying them of their subjectivity and freedom, is to commit an act of oppression, and another act of oppression to respond and end the initial act is ethically justified, as long as the end result (or intention, minimally) is to maximise human freedom.
This can be applied to some ethical examples:
- Someone commits an act of sexual harassment. Existentially, we cannot use the ‘lack of freedom’ thread to denounce this act because there’s nothing (very explicit, at least) about sexually harassing someone that prevents them from being able to be free. It’s certainly inconsistent, but such an argument might not be strong enough. Rather, it looks like it’s a problem of good faith and free commitment. If the criminal says that he acted in accordance with his beliefs, that would be false because it would not be in accordance with free commitment. If it were truly an act of free commitment, that would mean that he truly believed that everyone should be free to sexually harass others, which is simply absurd (and also starts to go into lack of freedom waters). Hence, we can conclude that such an act is wrong.
- A group of people keeps another group as slaves. This is clearly a freedom issue. By restricting the freedom of another group, they are acting in a manner that is hypocritical (and hence in bad faith). Again, such an act can be said to be wrong.