So basically we are what we do. We change what we do and we change who we are. Yet in that he states that the only way to put any value on what we do is through the process of others evaluating our actions. We can only be famous, for instance, as others define our actions as worthy of fame and recognize us in that way. But that is certainly not how individual actions are most often perceived. We usually consider that personal qualities like honour, happiness or compassion are intrinsic to human nature in some essential way. We often use the phrase, 'human nature' to talk about some essential element of the experience of self that is somehow universal to all human experience. Sartre would argue that that notion is flawed since it is defined in the interaction that we have with others. So Sartre advocates the idea that people exist first then they act and then they are attributed with essence or qualities. This is so clearly evident at funerals. We have a hard time talking about the qualities of a person without describing his/her actions as proof. So for Sartre free will looks like a blank slate upon which we act and as a series of informed, scheduled and defined actions that we can arrange in such a way as to construct the identity we desire.
My question then is – is that really free will? If the actions that I perform are what defines who I am and if those actions are under the evaluation and definition of others is the act of arranging my actions actually freedom or is it actually a type of inescapable coercion.
What then of the Christian notion of free will? Are we actually free to choose for or against God? Is this the sort of thing that the Scripture talks about when it suggests that slavery isn't optional but that the master is the only choice we have (Luke 16, Romans 7)?