May 29, 2006

Freedom

Posted in Philosophy, Religion at 7:19 pm by egalitaria

This will stay in my head.. Excuse me for finding it profound despite its simplicity, but it is: There is no freedom without responsibility. (no, it is not the same as Spiderman's great power quote) How true this is. There is, in no sense, absolute freedom. Any sort of freedom .. of speech, to criticise, of religion, of expression.. comes with an equal responsibility to handle the freedom. 

And a second statement: My freedom ends when someone else's dignity is taken away. Perhaps this is not the literal translation of the word freedom in itself, but it is one that sits well with me. 

This link gives crisp comments on the cartoon controversy a while back. Although it took place a while ago, perhaps it is a good idea for us to, after the dust has settled a little, approach it in a civil manner to explore what went wrong, and the relationships between the various threads at work.

From the site, comments by American philosopher Dallmayr:

It is well to remember that the uproar in this instance was not instigated by Muslims or Muslim countries.It was a response to a prior incident or provocation. Reason dictates that, here as elsewhere, one consider the cause-effect nexus, the relation between action and reaction. In this matter, it is tempting to wax fundamentalist on both sides. In Western media, the uproar is usually portrayed as the conflict between “freedom” and dogmatism or fanaticism. “Freedom” in this context is often treated as something absolute and nearly sacred, while religious faith is presented as deplorable and obsolete.

For a Western person, it is important to ponder a bit this “absolutism”. Does freedom really mean that we can do as we please, that we can insult or malign other people at will? This assumption is at odds with both the religious and the ethical traditions of the West. Western civilization is often called “Judaeo-Christian”; but neither Judaism nor Christianity instructs believers to insult or injure other people. On the contrary, both Judaism and Christianity uphold the biblical injunction to love our fellow-beings (and this does not exclude Muslims). A prominent peak of the ethical tradition of the West is the moral philosophy of Kant. That philosophy stipulates as a “categorical imperative” the duty to treat other human beings as ends, not as means. And nowhere in Kant’s work is there a hint that this imperative does not extend to Muslims.

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