Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Ivory Cubicle | Constructed Freedom

This article is the second in a three part series on freedom. Part 1 dealt with a limitless "existential" freedom. Part 2 deals with a socially constructed freedom. Part 3 will discuss the role of Christian liberty in a free society.
We rejoin our favorite existentialist as he roams about in the midst of his infinite nothing (see last week's article). The limits of morality have been shattered, and with it any foundation upon which the individual can stand or goal towards which he can strive. Having rocked all of human morality off of its stable foundation, he's left with an amorphous blob of humanity floating together in a who-knows-what towards who-knows-where.

And so, in continued defiance of God, and still convinced that he can come up with some conception of freedom apart from him, he decides to build his concept of freedom upon said amorphous blob. Enter the liberal society.

Freedom as a Social Construct

Martin Heidegger
In 1927, a good 40 or so years after Nietzsche trumpeted the death of God, another German by the name of Martin Heidegger published a horribly dense and indecipherable tome entitled Being and Time. Amidst the clever wordplay and gazillion or so new words he invented for his own purpose (all the more convoluted because they're in German), an idea of some sort began to emerge, one that would form the basis of post-modern thought and haunt Western civilization for the next century.

The tome starts by asking the question “what is Being?” After some confusing pontifications on the difference between “Pure Being” and “Being-at,” Heidegger arrives at the conclusion that man is a “Being-in-the-world.” That is, man is trapped behind his own experiences, he is unable to get outside of his own opinions to discover what actually is. But, as we've discovered last week, that doesn't work too well for the radical individualist. So Heidegger cleverly avoids the implications by arguing that man is also a “Being-with,” he lives in a world with other individuals with whom he can create a sort of social value. In short, we are all trapped in our own little world, but at least everyone else is trapped there as well, so we might as well make the best of it.

The post-modern, armed with this new understanding of humanity, seeks to ground morality in a social consensus. Truth is not absolute, it's whatever we, as a group of people, feel like.

Unfortunately, attempting to derive morality from an amorphous blob of individuals is about as successful as deriving morality from a single individual. The difference is that 1). it takes a lot longer for an amorphous blob to introspect and figure it out, and 2). a few members of the amorphous blob aren't quite off their rocker, allowing some small bit of sanity to seep in (we call these people “conservatives,” more on that next week).

When applied to politics, the effects are disastrous. If truth is socially constructed, then all we have to do is vote to determine what's true. And once we vote on what's true, we have a moral code to govern by! Voila!

Enter modern liberal politics. If we decide as a society that we want money spread around to the greatest number of people, then that's what's right for us, no biggie. If we want to determine that gay marriage is a thing (which it isn't), then no big deal, we can vote that into law too (and how dare you narrow-minded Christian protest the moral code which our society hath decreed!). If we want to determine that the child in the womb isn't actually a person, then that's our prerogative.

But the problem is more pernicious than that. In an attempt to throw off God-given and God-enforced restraints, we've come back around to a new set of restraints, ones constructed by government and enforced by that government. In short, we have replaced God with government, and in doing so, we have made government our God.

Terrifying, isn't it? In attempting to escape the limits of Divine morality, we just come back around to human morality, and human morality is a more demanding master than Divine morality (“my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30). Rebellion against God is ultimately slavery, abiding by his law is true freedom.

So what now shall we do? Never fear, ultimate truth is here! But you'll have to wait till next week to find that one out.

by Nick Barden

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for another enjoyable dish of food-for-thought! What you wrote about the German Language reminded me of a quote from Sherlock Holmes: "Though unmusical, German is the most expressive of all languages." -From "His Last Bow".