the fullness of freedom

In 1944 Karl Polyani wrote about good and bad freedoms.

He described bad freedom as:

“the freedom to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage”

And good freedom as:

The market economy under which these freedoms throve also produced freedoms we prize highly:  Freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.

For Polyani the good freedoms are “by-products of the same economy that was also responsible for the evil freedoms.”

Then he wrote a prescription for a better future; one which is broader, more transparent and inclusive and ultimately more hopeful; one which twins freedom with justice:

The passing of the market economy can become the beginning of an era of unprecedented freedom.  Juridical and actual freedom can be made wider and more general than ever before; regulation and control can achieve freedom not only for the few, but for all.  Freedom not as an appurtenance of privilege, tainted at the source, but as a prescriptive right extending far beyond the narrow confines of the political sphere into the intimate organization of society itself.  Thus will old freedoms and civic rights be added to the fund of new freedoms generated by the leisure and security that industrial society offers to all.  Such a society can afford to be both just and free.

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a broad path with many forks
May 26, 2012, 12:06 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

You might be insane if you lack self awareness and can’t manage your feelings and are an emotional train wreck.  Or you could be too, if you are the opposite:  controlled and isolated and repressed.

Apparently there aren’t many or any proper definitions of sanity out there, in the world, readily available, useful now.  But Philippa Perry’s new book ‘How to Stay Sane,’ from The School of Life provides a good description.  She urges to get out of the two extreme camps of emotionalism and isolation and into a saner middle ground of self awareness and connection.

Here is a description from a book review at School of Life:

Sanity is to be found in the middle ground between two extremes, she says. At one end there’s what she calls ‘chaos’, which is being so at one with one’s feelings and emotions there is no self-awareness.  These people stagger through life lurching from catastrophe to catastrophe like off-the-rail trains. They lack the necessary filters and self-awareness to self-soothe, and manage their feelings in healthy ways.

At the other pole is a kind of rigidity where a person’s feelings are boxed up and buried, inhibiting their chances of personal growth or change. The depressed, isolated and reclusive would fall into this category. Between these two poles is where sanity lies, ‘a broad path, with many forks and diversions, and no single ‘right’ way.’

David Waters reviews How To Stay Sane by Philippa Perry

ask, heed, respond, agree

To live is to converse.  Sounds glib, until you ask yourself how many people in your life you have a vital, clear, continuing verbal relationship with.  Some people do, but a lot do not; I include myself in the latter.  I have short intense wranglings, but rarely life long explications.

There is a history of dialogic relationships – friends who chat – in literature: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Iago and Othello, Holmes and Watson, Vladimir and Estragon, Lodovico Settembrini and Leo Naphta, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern among the best known.  A contemporary conversation worth checking out is that between Lars Iyer and W. – a philosophic and funny wrangle between two UK philosophy professors – in Iyer’s books Spurious and Dogma.

Here is a good description – by the philosopher Bakhtin – of how dialogue is the essential act of communion that gives us life, the medium by which we are inducted into it, our ticket to what he calls the world symposium:

“Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction”

“The single adequate form for verbally expressing authentic human life is the open-ended dialogue. Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium.”

Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevski’s Poetics

Dialogic Tectonic, Scott Francisco

Alice the March Hare the Queen and Dali

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absolutely certain of nothing

My Restoration prof said that, at the end of an undergraduate course you should “know that you know nothing.”  Good advice.  Here, in the same vein is Bertrand Russell’s rules for teachers.

In his view, a good teacher is a person with little interest in power who uses wit, avoids the use of authority and sometimes subverts it, challenges orthodoxies, is quietly fearless, never obsequious nor pandering, often quirky, rejects passivity, and risks all for the truth.

From Russell’s Decalogue:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

    1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
    2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
    3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
    4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
    5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
    6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
    7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
    8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
    9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
    10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

A Liberal Decalogue, Bertrand Russell, December 16, 1951, The New York Times Magazine

from A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Teaching, Maria Popova, Brain Pickings