A Comparison of the Views of John Locke and Jean-Paul Sartre on the Topic of Determinism Versus Free Will

Topics: Determinism

Many philosophers hover over the topic of determinism versus free will; do we live in a world where individuals can choose, think, and act voluntarily, where their actions can change the outcomes of events, or do we live in a deterministic world, where all outcomes and events are set to occur and avoiding them is impossible. John Locke believed in a deterministic world, where individuals cannot change the outcomes of events; in contrast, Jean-Paul Sartre believed in a world where individuals make their own choices and their actions can change the outcome of any event.

Determinism is the philosophical term where all actions, decisions, and events are determined to occur and are inevitable. John Locke, an English philosopher, and physician believed that we lived in a deterministic world, where all outcomes are inevitable and the ignorance of individuals gives an illusion of freedom. He gives an example of a man who woke up in a room that was locked from the outside; the man chose to stay in the room, thinking he chose freely.

In reality, the actions and decisions the man-made would not have changed the outcome. The outcome was already set because the door was locked; therefore, whether the man wanted to leave or stay, he would be stuck in the room. This shows John Locke’s perspective and belief, that an individual’s ignorance gives them the illusion of freedom. Some would believe that an individual’s actions are free as long as they choose to act with no limitations or boundaries; however, when looking at hard determinism, the belief where one event or many sets of events will lead to another, their acts will always lead to the outcome that was presumed to be the “destined” one.

Get quality help now
Bella Hamilton

Proficient in: Determinism

5 (234)

“ Very organized ,I enjoyed and Loved every bit of our professional interaction ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

This will go back to John Locke’s belief that an individual’s ignorance makes them think they are free when in reality, it was predetermined and was impossible to avoid. We as humans could be living in a predetermined world that John Locke and many other philosophers have described; in contrast, many philosophers also argue that we live in a world where individuals are free. Free will is the ability to choose, act, and think voluntarily. Individuals can control their fate, destiny, and outcomes from their actions. Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher, novelist, playwright, biographer, and literary critic, believed that we humans were in charge of our destiny and we could change the outcome of any event by changing our actions and decisions made. Individuals will act on their desires and from their actions, there will be an outcome. Jean-Paul Sartre says, “Freedom is existence, and in it existence precedes essence.” This means individual acts will determine the outcomes. He gives an example that states, that an individual does not tell the truth because they are honest, but he/she tells the truth countless times which determines whether they are honest or not.

Sartre also explains that as human beings, we can choose what we want to do. He goes on to explain that every human being is responsible for what they do. As human beings, if we have to choose between choice A or choice B, individuals could not choose any; therefore, they are acting on their desires by fleeing from their responsibilities to make a choice.

Many philosophers would believe that as long as human beings act on their desires, we would not be living in a predetermined world. Individuals may ask themselves how they would know if their outcomes in life were predetermined. These individuals would want to know if their desires and actions were leading to an inevitable outcome that was destined to occur. Jean-Paul Sartre believes that acts determine the outcomes and that outcomes can change. Human beings have to power to change themselves and if we do not like the person we have become, we can change the personality and goals of that person too, it all depends on how we act in this world.

Determinism and free will are topics philosophers have dealt with in the past and present. Many philosophers are still debating: do we live in a predetermined world where humans do not have a say in what happens and everything is decided on “fate” or do we will in a world where free will is present and human actions and desires can change the outcome of events. When looking at determinism, John Locke would say that individual’s ignorance gives them an illusion of freedom; in contrast, Jean-Paul Sartre would say that the desire and action of a person will change any outcome. In John Locke’s example of a man who was kidnapped and put in a room, the man stayed in the room, but the outcome would have been the same, therefore that would be predetermined; however, if the man chooses different actions before he got kidnapped, he could have avoided the outcome entirely because he would not have got kidnapped in the first place. In a way, both free will and determinism play a role in what the outcome could have led to. He could have escaped being kidnapped or he would have gotten kidnapped later on if it was an evitable outcome. There will always be an argument or a situation that will aarise, making it impossible to tell what kind of world humans live in, a predetermined world or a world where humans decide their fate.

John Locke believed in a deterministic world, where there is the presence of fate and destiny; opposite of Jean-Paul Sartre who believed in a world where human’s acts determine the outcome of a situation and that outcomes can change. Both philosophers are right in their viewpoints and other individuals’ perspectives; however, in reality, I don’t think we as humans can ever be 100% positive and come to a conclusion about what worldly liven.

After reading up and viewing both topics, I would say that we live in a world where human actions, desires, and decisions can change the outcome of any situation. It is an easier concept to understand; however, in philosophy, our goal is to think deeper on topics to find missing links because some people might not be able to see them. As the theme goes on, my view on this topic could change, but for now, I believe that my actions determine my future,e, and outcomes are never predetermined. 


  1. “Rsrevision.com/ethical Theory.” Free Will and Determinism. Web. 05 June 2016.
  2. Rickless, Samuel. “Locke On Freedom.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 2015. Web. 05 June 2016.
  3. Riley, Jim. “Free Will and Determinism Religious Studies.” The Exam Performance Specialists. 01 Mar. 2015. Web. 05 June 2016.
  4. “Jean-Paul Sartre Summary.” Jean-Paul Sartre Summary. Web. 05 June 2016.
  5. Timpe, Kevin. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 05 June 2016.

Cite this page

A Comparison of the Views of John Locke and Jean-Paul Sartre on the Topic of Determinism Versus Free Will. (2022, Jun 15). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comparison-of-the-views-of-john-locke-and-jean-paul-sartre-on-the-topic-of-determinism-versus-free-will/

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7