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On freedom


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On freedom

  1. 1. FREEDOM<br />Freedom exists where there is free will which is followed by free action. A will is free if it pursues goodness. Thus a person who does not succeed in doing what he sets out to do, because his will fails, is in a sense unfree, a slave to his passions. His will is not free because it is subject to momentary impulses which distract him from accomplishing what he had determined to do. At the same time, there is no freedom if free action does not follow from free will because of some arbitrary coercion by someone. True freedom involves the inner freedom of the will and the external freedom in the environment such that a person's plans and deliberations are not arbitrarily thwarted by some other agency.<br />Freedom is not a value but is valuable because it allows man to create and appreciate value, to pursue the classical values of beauty, truth and goodness. It enables people to use their creativity so as to bring joy to God and to others, their family, relatives, friends and wider community. Thus historically people have struggled not for abstract freedom for its own sake, but for the freedom to be good and do good.<br />Nor should freedom be confused with licence. There is only freedom within the framework of the norms of society and the rules of just conduct which describe the boundaries of human relationships. Anyone who violates these basic norms or laws, such as are embodied in the moral codes of all religions: sanctions against murder, stealing, adultery etc should expect to be punished. These are the limits of behaviour beyond which a person should expect to face the consequences. Thus there is no absolute freedom since freedom is not the highest value but only the circumstance, an artifact of civilization which exists so that value can be pursued. Freedom is always circumscribed by the norms of behaviour of a society. Thus speech, so offensive that it is liable to lead to a breach of the peace, should not be defended under the abstract rubric of freedom of speech. <br />Freedom is also not to be confused with power, being able to have one's way irrespective of others and the normal rules and customs of society. The understanding of freedom as the absence of obstacles to the realisation of our desires is in fact corrosive of human freedom and the moral fabric of society. This type of freedom leads to self-gratification and disregard for others. Is a free society one where stealing and rape go unpunished? In fact the law far from restricting freedom guarantees it. It is only criminals who dislike the law which frustrates the gratification of fallen nature.<br />True freedom only belongs to those who have fulfilled the purpose of creation, who have become the embodiment of God's love and truth and whose original mind naturally pursues goodness. In this sense we can agree with Augustine who said " love God and do what you will," since the will of such a person is only to be good. In the same way only a person who has mastered the piano through the discipline of many hours of instruction and practice has the freedom to play the most difficult music beautifully.<br />At the same time freedom involves responsibility. Freedom not only means that an individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice, it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions and receive praise or blame for them. It requires being responsible to correct the mistakes one has made as well as benefiting from wise actions. To hold people responsible for their actions is to treat them as moral beings as opposed to animals.<br />Freedom is a precious gift from God since without it man cannot perfect himself. This is why in history man has struggled to the extent of revolution for the freedom to pursue and realise the three great blessings given by God. Man's original mind is irrepressible in this regard. The first is the ability to perfect his character by becoming one with God. This has led to the demand for freedom of religion, the freedom to worship God in the way one chooses. The second is the ability to have an ideal family. Since a family is the place where love is realised in all its different directions, ethics is the establishment of the order of love and the norms of human relationship. Justice is a function of human relations and so the rules of just conduct are derived from love. Thus the struggle for the establishment of the rule of law, whereby general rules should apply equally to all, including government, is an expression of the pursuit of the second blessing. No one should be able to violate the law of love with impunity. The third was the ability and right to dominion over the whole creation. God's desire was that through this blessing man should inherit God's creativity and become the lord of creation. This has been expressed by the natural human desire for several property. The right use and dispose of one's possessions in the way that one sees fit within the framework of established custom.<br />