I’ve been thinking a lot about liberty. Liberty is sometimes defined as, “the quality individuals have to control their own actions.” Various concepts of liberty articulate the relationship of individuals to society in different ways.
Classical liberal concepts of liberty typically consist of freedoms of individuals from outside compulsion or coercion. This conception of liberty suggests that people should, must, and ought to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions. In contrast, social liberal conceptions of liberty place an emphasis upon social structure and agency and is therefore directed toward ensuring egalitarianism.
The discussion of liberty runs into two core ideas – freedom FROM something (freedom from tyranny, coercion, arbitrary exercise of authority), and freedom TO something (the freedom to do as one desires without restraint). People like John Stuart Mill jumped in and advocated the “harm principle” which states “that no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others.” Utilitarianism was born out of this idea and posits the idea that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering.
Once we find true liberation inside ourselves we go out into the world and we give expression to this in all sorts of different ways. I’ve been wondering a lot about what liberty and liberation would look like on all levels of human existence.
(Graffiti pic by Banksy)