Monthly Archives: October 2011

Freedom, Responsibility, the Shared Self and Social Shaping

Freedom and personal responsibility have long seemed incompatible with the social shaping we all go through as part of our initiation into the shared self of society. Yet we feel personal freedom and responsibility in a worldly sense, and in an ontological sense freedom is an a priori to any behaviour whatsoever (how can we simply orient ourselves towards something that catches our eye without basic ontological freedom, never mind more complex behaviours? Behaviourism fails even in accounting for our very freedom to study behaviourism).

How do we reconcile this seeming incongruity. After all, our decisions are obviously affected, conditioned even, by our initiation into our societies and subcultures. Adding in the notion that this initiation is an initiation into a shared social self seems to only add to the incompatibility.

The answer to the problem of freedom ironically lies in accepting personal responsibility specifically for what we cannot factically be responsible for, our initial, conditioned decisions and their results. This act creates a boundary, a limit that we can maintain or at times abandon on the effect of the social self on our personal decisions.

One of our failings is to pathologize these decisions, and to continue pathologizing what are intrinsically free decisions throughout our lives. Excusing our decisions by the effects of events in our lives absolves us from responsibility by removing our freedom.

Of course this affects the choice of a certain unfreedom in consensual slavery. I will look at the way in which this effect plays out in a later post.

Gelassenheit kicks me in the shins

Some problems evade definition. So do some situations. One of the more difficult things is to live with that and not try to define a situation to death. We like to have a situation as fully defined as possible, it gives us the warm fuzzies. We also like to think we have a problem defined in such a way that we can map out the steps to a solution. Sometimes those very definitions kill the situation, or make the problem insoluble.

mitda and I have been wrestling with this type of situation for a good while. With emmie and I things are more defined, the outlines and contours of the relationship more visible and less shifting. And of course the contrast only added to the urge to overdefine the relationship mitda and I have. It also added to the urge to define the problems in the relationship, after all, every relationship has its problems. The process of defining was nothing more than a process of undoing, though. Now we are feeling our way towards a redoing.

This kind of situation has to be handled in a mode of gelassenheit, an active letting things be what they are and will be. The abyss is all too present to be ignored in this kind of situation, but it is the only abground available for the relationship to stand or to fall on.