The discussion is often portrayed as a conflict between free will and determinism. The physical world outside ourselves is assumed to be deterministic, with every event caused, or uniquely determined, by earlier events, while in contrast we seem to have control of our own lives in a way that transcends the shackles of cause and effect. When we try to discover the nature of our own decision-making process, and assess all the factors on which our choices depend, there is no doubt that chief among them are the influences and previous experiences to which we have been subject in the past, both immediate and remote. But we seem to have an ability to override all these influences, particularly when matters of conscience or principle are involved. We feel that we ourselves are the causes of our actions, and expect to be held responsible for them in a way that no machine or computer can ever be held responsible for its behavior. We rejoice in the good decisions we have made, and we regret those which turned out less favorably for ourselves or others, and wish we had chosen differently. We treat others also as though they are responsible for their own conduct; we praise them for their noble or generous actions, believing that they were freely chosen, and we blame them for the mistakes they make, believing that they could have performed better. We hold them morally responsible for their behavior in a manner we cannot possibly apply to mechanical devices, for we know such devices act simply in accordance with the laws of nature, and are incapable of behaving differently from the way they actually do behave. They have not got free will.
Humans are burdened and blessed with the power of freedom. While all other things in the universe are determined by the laws of the material world humans have the freedom to determine themselves and determine the material world within their limited power. Humanity’s power is limited but its freedom is not. Humans are not absolutely powerful in the physical sense. We are still confined by the laws that govern the physical world and our bodies. Power is what limits the human being, not a lack of freedom. Sartre would agree with the immediate conclusions from the following example of an imprisoned human: A prisoner may be said to possess no freedom, however he or she still possesses limited choices. In the very least the imprisoned human will have the ability to make some action not determined by the institution whether it be to end his or her life or simply to speak certain words or make a specific eye movement. Humanity’s ever present ability to choose means that freedom is ever present. However, Sartre did not recognize that the real limitation of humanity is power. If the prisoner inexplicably became an omnipotent human being then there would be no limitations to his or her