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Freedom & Responsibility

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Freedom & Responsibility

Post by dean jacques on Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:07 am

Freedom & Responsibility

"Freedom is not the final goal. It is the means to that goal."
(jacket quote from The Deeper Quest.)

Western culture's emphasis on freedom is surely one of its most distinguishing features. As with all the Chivalry-Now concepts, however, there is a deeper meaning that needs to be explored in order to better understand its relevance.
It is easy to assume that freedom means what its name implies: an environment absent of restraint, the ability to do what one pleases. And that would be essentially correct. Such a definition, however, often referred to as negative freedom, conveys an amoral significance. (Negativity, in this case, does not mean bad, but rather a condition that allows for virtue, but fails to encourage it, or anything else for that matter).
We all know that we more easily better ourselves in a state of freedom. When human potential is given free rein, avenues are opened toward great creativity and genius.
But negative freedom, by itself, leaves the door open to shirk responsibility as well, commit illegal acts or just waste ourselves by wallowing in mediocrity and selfish concerns until we die. It has no stated goal, no meaning other than a wide opportunity to the exploit others.
Freedom moves to the level of being a true ideal when accompanied by the strict corollary of responsibility. Only then does it find the rich meaning it deserves, and the direction of life gain purpose.
Positive freedom comes from using the potentials of negative freedom to develop oneself responsibly and living a good and virtuous life. It means achieving personal autonomy through the application of reason to conscience (Concept 5, Nature's law). It also encourages the development of the highest human virtue, (Concept 2, Areté). When we do this, we complete our own humanity. When we do not, freedom becomes just an empty word, as supportive of vice and corruption as anything else. The 12 Trusts serve as a guide to meeting our responsibility to others.
The Age of Enlightenment expounded the benefits of freedom, but it was not until the arrival of twentieth century Existentialism that the full importance of responsibility was expounded, attaching itself to freedom as its logical and natural response. From this perspective, freedom makes us completely responsible for who we are, what we do, and every word we speak. We are not only responsible for ourselves through our actions, but for defining humanity in the process. Our every deed is a human deed. Our every sin stains the potential of everyone else. Existentialism points out our serious obligation to be our very best at all times, for the sake of our species and future generations. It tells us, quite convincingly, that we cannot acquiesce in the face of evil without becoming evil ourselves.
Without recognizing and embracing this powerful responsibility to give freedom its virtuous significance, Chivalry-Now would be just another nice idea, somewhat inspiring perhaps, but lacking in transformational significance.
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