Sartre has said that since we are free, there is no human nature. Human nature means that you’re confined to a certain essence. But if that’s the case, then we wouldn’t be free. Basically, Sartre is pulling a Modes Tollens argument:
- If there is a human nature, then we would not be free.
- We are free.
- Therefore, there is no human nature. (Modes Tollens 2, 3)
We can choose to do (and therefore, be) anything we want because of our choices.
So far so good, except when we get to his view of love. Sartre states that the nature of human relationships are always conflictual. Sartre states that conflict is the original meaning of human relationships (Being and Nothingness, 474-5). If I’m interpreting this right, it seems like Sartre is saying that the nature of relationships is conflict. So all human relationships will always be in some sort of struggle.
But hold on there, if all relationships are based on conflict, doesn’t that suggest that human beings are by nature conflictual creatures? Thus, human are, by nature, combative creatures. That would imply that we are not, by nature, cooperative creatures. If we were cooperative, then that is just an anomaly.
So if conflict is the nature of human relationships, doesn’t that imply that human beings are, by nature, combative creatures?
Are there any other interpretions of “original meaning” as Sartre states? Is there a way out of this contradiction?