Chapter 11 Freedom in a Political and Cultural Context
Freedom in a Political and Cultural Context
Glossary Capitalism: an economic system based on private or corporate ownership and control of resources and means of production and distribution. Goods and services and exchanged in a free market. Commodity: Something that carries an economic value within the marketplace; something that can be brought, sold and traded. Consumerism: A world view whereby one attributes meaningfulness to life through ones capacity and ability to purchase and consume economic goods. Democracy: Government by the will of all the people, a will that is expressed directly or through freely elected representation. To protect all people within the society from tyranny of the majority, democracies must recognize and guarantee the rights of the minority. A democracy that is ruled strictly by majority without protecting the rights of the minority would quickly degenerate into a system of class or privilege that no longer reflects the will of the government.
Individualism: A world view that favors the free action of individuals within society; a philosophical stance that began to develop in the seventeenth century with the thinking of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, that places personal rights and freedoms above other considerations. It is a social theory that favors personal autonomy. Instrumental reason: Human ability to select and develop effective means for achieving desired ends; ability to develop technologies. Liberalism: A philosophy based on the goodness of the human being, autonomy of the individual, and standing for the protection of economic, political and civil rights and freedoms. Market: Where buyers and sellers meet to exchange, sell, trade, goods. The value of goods is determines in the market, largely as a factor of supply and demand. However, the market is rarely allowed to function in an entirely free manner when one takes into consideration government restrictions, duties and tariffs, collusion among suppliers to limit supply in order to drive up the price, fierce advertising practices, and so on.
Private property: Something that is owned for ones exclusive use, or for one’s exclusive control. Relativism: A doctrine that knowledge is not absolute, but is conditioned by relation to another. Everything stands in relationship to everything else, and is judged based on these relationships rather than on any absolute principle or truth. Social contract: A term used by philosophers to describe the tacit agreement of individuals to live in community. It is a means of discussing the hypothetical terms the conditions that govern human society. Utilitarianism: A philosophy or world view that measures the value of all things according to the principle of usefulness- that which provides for the greatest pleasure or well being for the greatest number.
The Making of Modern Society - In our own society, we often take for granted the freedoms that we are given (i.e.- freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to make choices…) - Often, we even label other societies who do not have the same freedoms and opportunities that we do as “under developed”. - It is obvious that our legal system is set up in a way that will protect our rights and freedoms. However, this was not always the case. - In the past, people saw and perceived themselves as part of a larger order—a hierarchical order that was believed to be impossible to deviate from. (i.e.- God, angels, heavenly bodies, humans, earthly creature…) - Today, a modern liberal democratic society exists. Five beliefs have began to emerge that today shape western society’s view of the world: 1. The belief in unlimited progress 2. The belief in the exclusive supremacy of reasons 3. The belief in the supreme autonomy of the individual 4.The belief in the ever increasing domination and control of nature by human beings 5.The belief that success and efficiency are the two principle criteria for judging the worth of human beings and their activities
<ul><li>Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) </li></ul><ul><li>The basis of society is a tacit contract where individuals give up some of their appetite for power in exchange for the security of using their powers without fear of extreme violence </li></ul><ul><li>One accepts the obligation to obey a ruler in order to safeguard one’s freedom </li></ul><ul><li>It is a freedom based on a self interest </li></ul><ul><li>Developed political theory against the backdrop of the civil wars and the struggles in parliament that plagued England </li></ul><ul><li>He developed his political theories against the backdrop of the civil wars and struggles in parliament that plagued England during his lifetime. </li></ul><ul><li>He held a very pessimistic view of human natures since he maintained that humans were truly selfish beings. He referred to humans as beasts that are moved to act by their selfish appetites of human will. - He stated that even with law enforcement, individuals must fear for their safety and cannot let their guard down. -Hobbes also comment that the “natural” individual would be in a constant struggle with others as everybody would seek more power and have a fear of being overpowered themselves. -Hobbes also believed that the power of every individual can be translated into market terms. He stated that an individual could own power and could negotiate with others as to how they would use it. Thus, power was a commodity and could be traded with others. Since power gives people value, worth and honor, it could be bartered with just as money could be. </li></ul>
JOHN LOCKE (1632- 1704) - In Locke’s ideas, we find the beginnings of ideas such as government by consent, majority rule, minority rights, the moral supremacy of the individual and the sanctity of private property. - John Locke was born to a lawyer father (both of his parents died when he was young). He also studied at Oxford University. -He never received a medical degree, although he practiced medicine. Because of his practices, he was given a ticket to a comfortable life, through which he had a chance to experience the government from up close. -Locke developed a hypothetical state of nature: · Where persons are equal and are free to act as they will without interference from one another. · Believed that individuals share in the faculty of reason and act through principles that occur naturally in each human. · Locke reasoned that the earth and its resources belong to all people in common. However, a person’s labor entitles a person to gain property rights -“He is willing to join in society with others for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.” -The formation of civil society requires that all individuals voluntarily surrender their individual right to uphold the natural law in defense of property interests to the community
<ul><li>Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) </li></ul><ul><li>tried to connect individual freedom with the obligations of society </li></ul><ul><li>produced the social contract </li></ul><ul><li>if an individual is self-sufficient by nature, why would one then be apart of a society which restricts liberty? </li></ul><ul><li>human beings are good by nature but degenerates into competition of wills with other human beings </li></ul><ul><li>through social contract however, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free by submitting to the general will of the people </li></ul><ul><li>through social contract, people sovereign themselves and make laws which they agree to live by </li></ul><ul><li>ideas influenced French and American revolutions </li></ul><ul><li>goal of government should be secure to freedom, equality and justice for all regardless of what majority wills </li></ul><ul><li>if government fails to act in such manner, government looses its authority </li></ul><ul><li>individual would accept society if received something in returnà language, property, life, freedom </li></ul><ul><li>to live in accordance with the general will is a way of “forcing people to be free” </li></ul>
<ul><li>John Rawls (1921-2002) </li></ul><ul><li>links the thinking of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau </li></ul><ul><li>theory of justiceàRawls provides an alternative to utilitarianism </li></ul><ul><li>allows the rights of people to be sacrificed for the greater benefit of others as long as total happiness is increased </li></ul><ul><li>culture of individualismàfree societies and democratic principles </li></ul><ul><li>ànegative influence àIndividualism draws people into themselves àwith individualism, values tend to become relative àwith individualism, debates tend to centre on procedures rather than substance </li></ul><ul><li>two principles of justice that govern society </li></ul>
<ul><li>1st- each person would have the most extensive system of rights/freedoms which can be accorded equally to everyone </li></ul><ul><li>2nd- economic and social inequalities are justified only if they benefit all of society, especially its most disadvantaged members. All economic and socially privileged positions must be open to all people equally. </li></ul><ul><li>rights and freedoms of the individual supersede whatever notion of the common good maybe discerned by society and must be protected. </li></ul><ul><li>George Vanier (1881-1967) </li></ul><ul><li>governor general of Canada between 1959-1967 </li></ul><ul><li>brought faith and spiritual life to office </li></ul><ul><li>after his death, his son Jean Vanier spoke and paid tribute his father for his power and freedom derived from his faith </li></ul>
Freedom Under Challenge Individualism · Individualism equals freedom · There are no restrictions telling us what to do, what to believe or what religion to follow · Certain aspects of individualism, if taken to the extreme, can end up reducing the meaning of ethics and morality · It can result in people becoming only concerned with themselves and not thinking about how their actions will affect others · In this case, the person won’t challenge others or involve themselves in anything if it doesn’t directly involve them because they don’t care · Self-sufficiency is the main point of individualism; worrying only about ourselves and not enough about others *Too much do we speak of what we should do involves the concepts of our “rights” and “freedoms” (meaning, what we have the right to do because we have the freedom of choice) rather than acting according to what is morally right or acceptable.*
<ul><li>Instrumental reason: A society of commodities and consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Descartes determines that the self was a thinking self </li></ul><ul><li>He came to this conclusion by separating the act of thinking from the actual content </li></ul><ul><li>This leads to the self becoming isolated from its environment and the direct bond with things becomes lost </li></ul><ul><li>“ Instrumental reason is our ability to select and develop effective means for arriving at desired ends”. – using instrumental reason can allow us to figure out how to accomplish something effectively </li></ul><ul><li>We live in a society almost completely dominated by instrumental reason and we cannot go back to the pre-technological age (we can’t turn back time and we can’t erase our knowledge) </li></ul><ul><li>Instrumental reasons increase our capacities in medicine, agriculture, high technology and space research, however it also creates independence and lessens freedom </li></ul><ul><li>It dismisses faith as an illusion; the current trend is more of a spiritual, naturalist way of thinking compared to the more traditionalist perspective </li></ul><ul><li>A large amount of trust is put in technology and science and their solutions to our problems rather than depending on ourselves and our own intuition </li></ul><ul><li>A creation of the consumer society; consumers buy beyond what the need in attempt of buying an identity </li></ul><ul><li>The phrase “Everything has a price” could not have come into existence if it wasn’t for mass media. </li></ul>
The lessening of freedom in modern societies · Social analysts believe that the chances of recapturing freedom in modern society are very slim due to the “system” and “market focuses”, which are just too powerful to compete with · They believe that the freedom we have left (if it can be considered freedom) is that of trivial choices, and a freedom that has restrictions therefore it is not truly freedom · Individualism has taken over the lives of our modern society · Capitalism and neo-liberalism, in the nineteenth century, was so cruel to it workers that they rose up and forced governments to put labor laws in place and to allow labor unions · In regards to social justice, the Catechism says “Any system in which social relationships are determined entirely by economic factors is contrary to the nature of the human person and his acts” (#2423)