03 May 2013

What is the opposite of Freedom?

If we take this question at face value we probably come up with some obvious preliminary answers like slavery or oppression. A more etymological answer might try to contend with the idea of free- first, where unfree- would mean something like ‘being subject to someone (or something) else’ and then deal with –dom. “un-dom” might mean being outside the state of (or realm of) free-ness (or in this case un-free-ness). Then the opposite of freedom becomes something like ‘a state of existence outside of subjugation’, which I think we might also define as ‘freedom’.
a picture of freedom generally involves standing with spread arms

I might add to these initial (good) answers the troubling notion that debt might be a very good contemporary answer to our question. Or even commerce or exchange in general. A more radical answer might even be love or friendship or community.

I think what I am most concerned with here is the notion of a presumed value or good.  Freedom seems like something we all agree is good.  We like it.

I'm rereading House of Leaves with my Theories of Revolutions class and on this go-round (it's more of a maze for me now than the labyrinth it once was) it seems to me that the central metaphor of the novel holds that life is a journey... through a labyrinth.  However, there also appears to be a certain amount of cheats built into it, either you can cheat it (break through a wall or imagine new solutions) or it can cheat you by shifting its architecture and 'changing the rules'.

In the novel it becomes clear that the metaphor is just a shell game, but my title question occurred to me as I was reading this earlier today:
Another resource to help us think this through a bit might be the actual definition of freedom and what the entries seem to think freedom might not be.

Without confine or constraint, what do we have to do but stand, arms spread wide, trying to take up as much space as possible.  It seems to me that we need the limitations if for no other reason than to have common space on which to start a conversation (or relationship).  I think Marcuse/Hegel's point is that we need to be able to think outside of those limitations, but inevitably cannot actually act outside of them.

*As a side note, I think this quote also does a fairly good job of articulating why people tend to not enjoy talking to me at parties or late at night...

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