Jean-Paul Sartre Part I: “Mister Humphries, Are You Free?”

One of my favourite television series of the 70’s was the BBC’s “Are you being served?” Yes, I admit it, the humour wasn’t very refined, but at least you were guaranteed a good laugh. “Cheap jokes” I hear you say? Wait a minute, hidden in the “double entendres” was one of the most important philosophical questions ever to be posed. Remember the head of the Grace Brothers department store, Captain Peacock, asking the flamboyant Mr Humphries “Are you free?”
“Yes, I’m free…”

Well, if you think about it, Mr Humphries was available for the customers, but was he really actually free?
I don’t remember so many philosophical quotations and I find people who never stop quoting philosophers rather tedious. But the following citation is the one that probably got me started on my philosophical journey (as a hobby I hasten to admit). It comes from the influential French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in his “Existence is Humanism”:

“L’homme est condamné à être libre.”
Translated into English, it means “Man is condemned to freedom”. A contradiction in terms, might you think. No, we are condemned because we did not choose to be born; it was “imposed” on us (most teenagers know this only too well). But once we are born, we are free to do what we want. Although we have to accept this freedom and take responsibility for our actions, the choice must remain ours to make.
I challenge all the “Brexiters”, who are prepared to seriously diminish or even prohibit the free movement of EU citizens to and from the UK, to think twice about their desire to “tinkle” with this fundamental philosophical concept.
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