One way you can think of Utopias – a book about what freedom can be.
Freedom is a word that lots* of people say with incredible conviction. But there are so many different ideas of what a state of freedom actually is.
* Too many. Much, much too many.
This is not how I’m going to examine this in the finished book. I’m on a blog post. This is the early days of figuring out how to approach a big, complex, damn dense, and properly climactic passage in a book that I’ve barely written yet.**
** Am I writing commentary on my own book before it’s written? Sort of. I’m also providing so much paratext and background notes that if my work ever does have the impact of someone that a historian of ideas would study, I’d punk them all. If this goes on long enough,*** I’d give academic historians of the future something that makes the Husserliana look like a kid’s storybook.
Too many diversions. So here’s the roughest draft of what will probably be a central passage in the next big book of philosophy I’m planning. With significant props to Hannah Arendt (for the politics) and Gilles Deleuze (for the science).
We think of freedom in terms of personal sovereignty, and that results in a vicious paradox. Society itself becomes an oppressive force – its obligations constrain our sovereignty, our ability to do as we wish.
Remember – the desire to do what we wish is powerful and good. It’s the engine and fuel of political transformation, of organizing revolutions against tyrants and police states. But doing what we wish isn’t an end in itself because of how easily it’s corrupted.
I mean, it’s not a difficult concept to grasp here. People who can do what they wish, but have the personal ethics and character of a sentient sewage pipe, are monsters. Insert photo of Donald Trump Jr holding up pieces of an African elephant he just shot.
Plus, there’s the ontological dimension of it all – humans are built to be social creatures. Our personalities are heavily and irreparably damaged by cruelty and neglect during infancy and childhood. Humans need love, close social bonding, and the physical and mental forces of responsibility and obligation to function properly.
That’s the vicious paradox of conceiving freedom as personal sovereignty. To be truly sovereign as a person is to break yourself. How can we achieve the same practical effects – liberation from actual tyranny – of the sovereignty conception of freedom, but maintain the social solidarity we need to live decently?