I’m as free as a bird

1 06 2013

Is freedom possible for human being?

Sure—conditionally. And there’s the rub.

dmf asked in response to the last post whether one could “step out of one’s socialization”, to which I can only say. . . I dunno.

As to “how does this work”, well, you can become aware of your socialization (if only partially), and as a result of that awareness alter your relationship to the forces which have shaped you. Is this awareness “freedom”? It could be, or it could simply be a precursor to said freedom.

It would seem to me that such awareness is necessary to an understanding of freedom in which the individual is able to make meaningful choices about her own being. This doesn’t mean she would have to go against her socialization, but it would mean that she would have to have some sense of other ways of being such that the decision to remain on the path on which she was set can be understood as a free decision.

Such a decision wouldn’t be absolutely free—“absolute freedom” is a nonsense concept—but it could (not necessarily would) be as free as any decision about human freedom. And that the decision is free doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be terrible or tragic: a person could freely choose a life of sacrifice or pain. If she knows she is choosing a life defined by hardship, she may choose it freely, nonetheless.

And that is my objection to closed systems: they block out knowledge of other ways of being. In  countries and cultures in which freedom is prized less than other values, such shuttering of the mind might be necessary, even laudable. Advocates of such systems are themselves free to argue in favor of closure, and I might understand why they’re making such arguments: tradition, truth, obedience, survival, even love.

But if the case for their way of being requires ignorance of other ways of being, it’s tough to see how they have any case at all.

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