Tuesday, June 07, 2011

"I should be free to do what I want."

I am working through this thought, which came to me this morning while thinking about how to make a happy society.

"I should be free to do what I want."

The substantive moral argument is over whether the more important part of this claim is "free to do" or "what I want."

The substantive ethical argument is over whether the more important part is whether social structures ought to try to guarantee the "should be" or try to shape the "what I want."

I believe the ancients, including all three biblical faiths, take the latter position.
The moderns, including all kinds of Enlightenment thought, take the former.


ceemac said...

David H. Fischer in his book Albion's Seed explores the very different understandings of Liberty that were held by the 4 major groups that migrated to what is now the US from different parts of Britain.

He continued that exploration in his book Liberty and Freedom.

Michael Kruse said...

I think a similar issue is the issue of equality. Equality in the US was once about leveling obstacles that prohibited people from pursuing their values and visions.

With the rise of industrialization and robber barons came the idea of achieving equitable outcomes. Equality is now about everyone having similar outcomes.

gruntled said...

Michael, I think both impulses have been competing with one another from the beginning of America.

Rebecca said...

Have you read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom? It was much touted last year. Interesting fictional take on the connection between happiness and 'freedom' in contemporary American society.

gruntled said...

Rebecca: I have been debating Freedom. I will put it on my list.