Born Free Fallacy

"However, in a host of ways we make the life of reason easy for ourselves, by ploys and fallacies that feed our false hopes.... For example, there is the “born free” fallacy that has dominated educational thinking since Rousseau. This tells us that human freedom is a natural gift, that we are born to enjoy it, and that we lose it through the laws, rules and hierarchies of social life. That, in my view, is the opposite of the truth. Human freedom is an artefact. Societies have built laws, institutions and forms of collective discipline precisely in order that the individual can live freely. To believe that we are born free makes it easier to bear our frustrations, to blame others for our woes, and to dignify our inadequacies with the colours of a justified rebellion. It enables us to discard all knowledge that it is painful to acquire, and to believe that idleness is virtue. And the effect of this belief on education has been devastating, leading everywhere to the loss of discipline and culture."

Roger Scruton, Gloom Merchant


Anonymous said…
i agree with the whole of it, dont you? :P
Komal said…
A bit on the collectivist side, no? This is what people in Pakistan tend to think. That's why they make the lives of children a living hell.
Awais Aftab said…
I think laws and institutions on the whole contribute more to putting men in chains than to their freedom, but the passage got me wondering: the freedom that we are talking about, does it even make sense to say it exists by "default"? Maybe this freedom is an acquired thing, something gained from a (philosophical) 'education' or self-learning of sorts. I don't think it exists by itself naturally. Or if it does, it has to be discovered, at least.

To avoid turning this issue into a quagmire, i suppose it would be essential to define the "natural state" and "freedom". I'll ponder over it for a while.
Komal said…
It may not be a natural condition in that people are not born with it, but it may still be natural in the sense of not being socially constructed.

But if you're trying or say that it's positive rather than negative, I would agree. I see freedom as a positive state of flourishing, not a negative lack of restriction.
Nadia said…
I agree with all that was said. Wrote this poem last year...


‘The life that I live,

The attire that I don,

The pleasures that I seek,

The associations that I form,

All freed from the fetters,

Of dogmatic tradition I want.’

On the sage’s lips gathered,

The most beatific smile.

In reply to her outburst,

He spoke but one line.

‘What thou call freedom is naught,

But enslavement to thyself, O my child!’
Amir Khan said…
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