What is this moral freedom business?

Part 4  Solving the government’s problem under agency as freedom

All governments have two main tasks to fulfill, regardless of their culture or political system - provide sufficient personal freedom for people to conduct daily affairs, and maintain social order so that personal freedom can be exercised and the culture can function.  Personal freedom is freedom to buy and sell, make choices about work and leisure.  Social order is conducted via law and regulation and custom and etiquette. Civil society also functions as a mechanism of social control, as a transmitter of values. Governments have to provide for both tasks simultaneously.

Ci Jiwei describes two ways of securing agency for individuals –  agency as freedom and agency as identification.  It is this ability to exercise individual agency that contributes to a sense of human dignity – that one’s thoughts and hopes are considered in the world.  

Both ways are valid approaches to securing dignity if they function as intended. Both can fail.  But there is an aspect to agency as freedom as a social stabilizer that makes the government’s job of providing for freedom and order much easier.  I want to discuss that here.

What is this moral freedom business?

Part 3 – How freedom and identification fail

 

The two models - agency through freedom and agency through identification - are culturally determined.  A child must be acculturated to use freedom in decision-making or defer to an exemplar. No society adopt one or the other completely, but the social tendencies run deep, particularly in China and in the US.  Think of “freedom” in the US, and perhaps “harmony” in China.  Those words might well describe the political and social culture of each country. 

What is this moral freedom business?

 Part 2  Agency through identification

 

Moral philosophers – Ci Jiwei, Joseph Chan, and many others, probably beginning with Kant – define several kinds of freedom - personal freedom, economic freedom, political freedom and moral freedom.  For my purposes here – and as Ci and Chan do as well – I merge personal and economic freedom, and political and moral freedom.  That seems to me a reasonable change that does no harm to the discussion. 

Every society necessarily allows for some personal freedom – traveling to work, some form of leisure, some choices about buying personal items. 

Not so for moral freedom.

What is this moral freedom business?

Some notes, in four parts

 

Part 1

I referred to moral freedom in the recent post on Ai Fen, the Wuhan doctor who first told her colleagues about the coronavirus.  She was threatened severely for releasing information.  Under threat, she said no more, until her moral sense overcame her decades of prior training to do as she was told by leaders. See Moral Freedom.

Several people have asked for clarification on moral freedom. The term means what?

Recent

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