Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) is possibly the most renowned philosopher of the 20th Century. Sartre’s indefatigable pursuit for philosophical reflection, and literary creativity in the 2nd half of his life as well as his active political participation won him worldwide celebrity, with an immense admiration especially in the worlds of philosophy and politics. His major philosophies and consequent writings emerged a decade immediately after the 2nd World War. Among the themes that he addressed in writing and in his public address forums is the theme of freedom- monstrous freedom. This paper has looked into some few authors’ reflection on Sartre’s monstrous freedom, as well as personal understanding on the theme.

Monstrous Freedom on Authority

In a dialogue between Burke and Sartre on traditional and radical individualism, Burke said, “Of course, M. Sartre you are nothing if not a philosopher of freedom, all of which is very perplexing when we discover in your later thought your flirtation with Marxism. In light of your own Itinerary of Thought” (Pappin, 2003, p. 154). Burke observed that Sartre’s thoughts might help people still confined into the world to have a reflection on freedom as well as its natural co-relation to authority.

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Sartre observed that the very introduction of authority is the introduction of oppression and domination. He posited that freedom could be attained by bringing authority to an end and beginning freedom recovery within an egalitarianism social context, through which every hierarchical power is to be eliminated, consequently allowing the flourishing of  persons. He refuted the assumption held by many that freedom is a natural right for every human being arguing that there is nothing as human right. Rather Sartre observed that having nature is having an essence, defining, substantiating, and offering something granite-like. To him, freedom surpasses the existing limits and it involves possessing an ability to change and to become.

Sartre perceived man’s subjectivity to be the starting point, upheld by his notion “existence precedes essence” (P. 155).  In relation to acquisition of freedom, he argued that “man makes himself out of what is made of him.” When man finds himself as a subject to kings, lords and masters, he has a responsibility of either making himself a subject of such authorities or desiring liberty and working towards that desired liberty. An individual’s freedom is achieved when he refuses to let the past limit his horizon (Pappin 155-156). Monstrous freedom entail overcoming the challenges obscuring an individuals horizon, propelling the person to achieve more and manage himself, other than being subject of another’s management.

Monstrous Freedom on Violence

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, monstrous freedom is the kind of freedom that the subjects, the ruled, the oppressed, have to retaliate, refusing the oppression and fighting for their liberty. As much as Sartre was opposed to violence, he posited that sometimes, the only way out to acquisition of freedom is use of the violence. Such freedoms are attained by the colonies, when they oppose their colonizers and fight for the freedom of their country. Neil Roberts (2004, p. 143) was concerned whether colonial subjects could truly overcome Fanonian dialectic middle phase. He wondered whether they had a choice. However, he posited that Jean-Paul Sartre had provided answers to those questions. Roberts observed that the works of Sartre on Violence had provided a relationship between anti-colonial violence and freedom. Sartre had stated his provisional answer on his “Critique of Dialectical Reason Volume one.” Sartre had stated, “is praxis with a double (or multiple) epicenter … violence is always both a reciprocal recognition of freedom and a negation (either reciprocal or univocal) of this freedom” (Sartre, 735-736).

Sartre had posited that violence in captivity ensues to trigger an overcome for mankind’s alienation, that results from phenomenological lived certainty of scarcity in the modern capitalist society. He argued that scarcity is as a result of the bourgeois’ humanism omnipresence, which leads to material deprivation system. Though his perception on monstrous freedom was less abstract, and at length more direct, he clearly pointed out that the oppressed are “the wretched of the earth.” For such a people to have their freedom, they need to realize the agency. He argued that violence is basically an activity that emerges from category of agency (referring to an individual’s ability to act). He argued that people lacking subjectivity engage in violence to gain agency. Monstrous Freedom is achieved when the captive/colonized or the subject desire a change of the status quo and act accordingly, through confronting their masters and refusing to continue sitting as subjects (Roberts 143).

Monstrous Freedom on Ego and Consciousness

While writing on “The Transcendence of the Ego,” Sartre pointed out that it is central to distinction between the pure and impure. He argued that when consciousness upon itself persuading itself that it is possession of a eternal thing-like structure (in reference to the ego), that exist no matter its specific conscious acts might be, it indulges in impure reflection. He argued that it constructs the ego, so as to hide from itself what he referred to as spontaneous freedom to conquer the anxiety accompanying the detection of such Monstrous Freedom. The consciousness efforts to hide from itself is never successful. He implied that the consciousness has first to accept itself, realize its position and either decides to stay in the same position or to trigger the desired change (Anderson 9). The first step towards Monstrous Freedom is the consciousness acceptance that change is needed. The pure reflection acts as the genesis of the freedom so desired, and until the subject gets to this point, he/she will remain off freedom.

The basis of Sartre monstrous freedom is ontological. This implies that man is free because he/she is not a self, i.e., an in-itself, rather, a presence-to-self or transcendence of own self. The implication of this position is that man is “other” to himself, in that whatever he is, or whatever others ascribe him, he is “in the manner of not being it”- able to assume a perspective in personal regard. The inner distance reflects a non-self identify and generates the site for freedom as a definition of man. He argued that man is responsible for his world based on the meaning and the value man assigns to choice. Upon accrediting meaning and value to freedom, man goes ahead to seek means to assume the freedom (Flynn 1).


Jean-Paul Sartre, a politician and a philosopher is amongst the distinguished writers of the 20th century for his great political and philosophical ideologies. Among his key areas of interest was the concept of freedom. He wrote of monstrous freedom as an issue of choice. Monstrous freedom, he argued, does not come on a silver plate: Rather the captive has to work his freedom. He who finds himself as a subject under a superior authority may decide to work his way out consequently attaining freedom or decide to continue to be a servant. Drawing from colonial situation, he posited that the colonized have to engage in violence if they desire to have self-governance. Arguing that establishment of authority and bureaucracy is the root of depression and deprivation of freedom, he argued that uprooting such dictatorial structures is the only way that subjects would acquire full liberty. Monstrous freedom is about refusing to be subject under oppression and demanding change of positions.

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