Fri 15 Sep 2006
This Selection is from Montague Brown, The One Minute Philosopher
Freedom is taking “responsibility for our own life. Insofar as it is compatible with the common good, people should be allowed to choose freely how they want to live.
Freedom, within the context of mutual “respect, leads to independent and energetic action. This is certainly preferable to forced conformity. It is good for individuals and the “community If I can choose to become a teacher or a doctor or an entrepreneur rather than being forced into some job, I will be “happier in my work and more likely to succeed. This certainly benefits me, but it also benefits the community. Of course, freedom is not an absolute: if my free action seriously violates the common good, it should not be permitted.
Freedom is a positive force in many areas. In writing a paper for history class, a certain independence in choosing the topic and method aids the learning process. A coach has to give her athletes a degree of freedom to make decisions in a game, for new situations will arise that demand creative solutions. In government, the freedom to vote gives people a stake in their future. In all of these examples, self-discipline and responsibility are required if the freedom is to be fruitful.
Freedom and license must not be confused:
freedom embraces responsibility and is guided by reason and virtue; license is choice without restraint.
Is it my choice?
Am I acting reasonably and responsibly?
If so, my action is the exercise of freedom.
‘Freedom refers to self-determination. … To the extent that we can determine for ourselves who we shall be, we are responsible for our lives.”
Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw
Beyond the New Morality, Ch. 1
License is the throwing off of all “responsibility. It is a carte blanche to do as we feel. As such, it is incompatible with virtue and destroys “community.
License, as the throwing off of all responsibility leads to absurd and dangerous action. On the personal level, license leads to “moral chaos. If my actions are based merely on whim or the “impulse of the moment, they are completely unpredictable, even to me. On the social level, license leads to anarchy — the lack of all dedication to the common good. This is obviously bad for the community, but license is also bad for those who exercise it. I strive to be free from responsibility rather than to be free to take charge of my
License can cause damage in the very places where freedom enriches. If license rules in choosing topic and method, a history paper might not even remotely relate to history. Athletes cannot succeed in a sport by acting on mere whim, for each sport requires discipline, and team sports demand a high degree of cooperation. If the members of a society ignore all restrictions of “law, that society will not survive. License abandons personal responsibility and so loses the creative energy and fruitfulness of freedom.
|“None can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but license
Tenure of Kings and Magistrates
Is it my choice? Am I acting without concern for reason or responsibility? If so, my action is the exercise not of freedom, but of license.