The free man that ties himself down
People do terrible things in books and movies today. The antagonist in most stories keeps things interesting, and keeps us wondering what happens next, and what other evils they’ll do. Sometimes they do things that are for their own benefit, and do things at the cost of others. Other times, in some of the most captivating stories, they seem to think of a grander scale, and want to cause chaos and leave an anarchic world behind them. These seemingly random and unpredictable characters convey a sort of freedom. They carry no guilt and don’t give a thought to the consequences of their actions. According to Nietzsche, a person like this is not ‘free’. A free person has a conscience. A free person has a sense of responsibility. A sovereign individual is a master of his own free will, and can recognize his superiority over those that cannot make promises or answer to themselves. A free, responsible individual can keep promises and this makes them respected and feared in society. In the end these qualities serve to make the individual predictable. Nietzsche’s ‘free’ individual is very different from the antagonist in modern day fictional stories.
In The Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche argues that man places these constraints on themselves because they are masters of their own free will. They have the ‘prerogative’ to promise and know self-worth and the importance of others. They have a strong will to remember the promises they make so that forgetfulness is not an issue. They ‘will save the rod for the liar who breaks his word in the very moment it passes his lips’. A sense of responsibility will keep the individual from becoming this liar, but if the individual possesses a free will, can he become this liar? If the individual knows they can become this liar for a moment and get away with it, would they bypass this sense of morality they’ve built for themselves? If they can’t, are they really free? Is a man that restricts himself with morality in society free? If a person can get everything they want, and do everything they want in these binds then perhaps they have all the freedom they need and consider themselves free. But can everyone consider themselves free, placing these restrictions upon themselves? Would a man that uses others as means consider themselves free? These restrictions are too binding to be considered as means of freedom for everyone. At least not complete freedom. There definitely are benefits to being respected and being considered responsible in society, but not everyone may share the same morality. Not everyone might have a ‘conscience’. If a liar lies at every instance they can get away with it, would they be any less free?
In Nietzsche’s terms, ‘guilt’ would be another restriction man would place upon themselves, when they’ve realized they didn’t keep a promise. The guilt would be a feeling of dread, because a debt is owed. Why would a ‘free’ man place guilt upon themselves? Wouldn’t a ‘free’ man be able to willingly break a promise and forget about it? Understandably, this would go against many moral codes man has built for himself in society, but should he be able to continue his ‘free’ way of life in society, would his ‘sense of responsibility’ ever come into play and completely prevent him from willingly breaking a promise? If he could escape debt and punishment and continue as a ‘free’ man, I think a man would break a promise. It doesn’t make sense that every ‘free’ man would carry guilt. Not every man who could carry this restriction would see themselves as free. Perhaps there are just different levels of freedom that we can subject ourselves to. Nietzsche’s ideas of a ‘free’ man are too black and white.