, which is that the human being is such that its being is an issue for itself.
More particularly, humans are directed to things primarily as far as these things concern their own being and its possibilities.
Hence it is “nothing” but contents of consciousness.12 Consequently, consciousness turns everything into “nothing”, nothing but meaning, which is the reason why Sartre equates consciousness with “nothingness” as opposed to “being”.
This does not mean that consciousness turns everything into its own interiority, its inside project.
What belongs to being conscious is to be free to turn what is given as mere thing, as non-conscious being, or what Sartre calls, “being-in-itself” ()—into what this being means to oneself as subject (BN p. Sartre follows Husserl’s phenomenological view of consciousness as being structurally intentional, as being about and directed to things that are not itself.
To be a subject means that, prior to any reflection or thetic decision, one is conscious of things, free to turn whatever thing one is conscious of into what this thing is not in-itself, thus into an object of consciousness (BN p. Sartre argues that consciousness is thus directed toward a thing in a way free to “nihilate” it, to make out of it a thing “for” consciousness, which is in effect “nothing”.
This alternative, so I contend, puts the discussion of freedom on another plane—at least within the framework of phenomenology.“Much more than he appears to ‘make himself’ man seems ‘to be made’ by climate and the earth, race and class, language, the history of collectivity of which he is a part, heredity, the individual circumstances of his childhood, acquired habits, the great and small events of his life.”Sartre rejects both classical responses to the common-sense view—libertarianism and determinism.
He rejects both the idea that the will is infinite and therefore free to rule over circumstances and the notion that we are completely determined by circumstantial causes (BN pp. Sartre does not deny that freedom has circumstantial adversities; however, he argues that such adversities actually only arise because of the limits and ends that freedom itself posits.
Sartre thereby introduces what can be called a concept of autonomous freedom—the freedom of agency, of a subject to choose its own limits and ends of action; in short, the freedom of choice.
A common misreading of Sartre’s position, so Webber (2011) points out, is that it comes down to some sort of “staccato voluntarism”, meaning we decide capriciously how to respond to the world we encounter or how to make it appear.9 Sartre rather thinks of choice as an act of deliberation towards limited ends, that is, within the framework of projects (BN p. As Webber notes, Sartre is not entirely clear on what is meant by “project”.