The free man

The rights-bearing individual is not a free man in the classical sense. He is the opposite, for his freedom must be indeterminate—the freedom to become anything he wants to be. The problem is that there is not much in him, and therefore the promise of the infinite possibilities that lie before him is vacuous. Despite occasional associations with remnants of the old views, the concept of the rights-bearing individual no longer denotes anything concrete. But the whole point of the classical view is that freedom means not the absence of obstacles but the possession of the attributes necessary either to overcome obstacles (­Aristotle’s emphasis) or to make them ­irrelevant to one’s self-conception as a fulfilled person (the Stoic and to some degree the Christian view).

In short, the free man must have “character.” For this, he must have a larger view of himself and the world around him, a view that provides moral criteria for an objectively good way of living. Such a view may come from an articulated philosophy or, more often, from the religious and cultural traditions that inform his education. This means that the truly free man derives inspiration from outside the political system. He cannot be wholly determined by and immersed in the dogmas and presuppositions of the reigning political ideology, whether monarchic, socialist, liberal, or democratic



RECENT COLUMNS

Archives