Liberty

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Supreme and essential value of human existence. In religious consciousness, l. is conceived as a spiritual gift that is bestowed upon human beings, allowing them to choose between good and evil, sin and virtue. Some theologians, such as Boehme and Berdyaev, derive the concept of liberty from the nothingness out of which God created the world. In existentialist philosophy (*Existentialism), l. and existence are regarded as closely related concepts. Partisans of determinism, i.e., the absolute priority of causes and laws for all phenomena, situate l. in a subordinate relation to necessity. In contrast, indeterminism place absolute value on l. and deny any dependence whatever of the human being on the laws of development of nature. In reality, l. and necessity are not mutually exclusive concepts. Starting with a rigidly deterministic framework for the universe, Spinoza defined l. as a conscious necessity, as a choice for the human being in such actions as do not infringe on natural laws and on the dependencies determined by nature, by the conditions of life and real possibilities. We cannot overcome the spontaneous forces of nature, such as an eclipse of the sun, the tides, earthquakes, etc., but they can be understood so that we can conduct ourselves in a reasonable and free manner within certain natural limits and, of course, these laws can be consciously used in practical activity to the benefit of humanity. Contemporary conceptions of the universe involving principles of complementarity, uncertainty, irreversible time, etc., do not eliminate certain constants that establish rigid limits (the speed of light, absolute zero, the laws of thermodynamics, the arrow of time, etc.); but, at the same time, the horizon of l. and choice is being broadened considerably, especially in humanity’s venturing forth into the cosmos, achievements in computer technology and information science, the creation of materials with new properties, genetic manipulation and the production of new organisms, and similar advances. In the sociopolitical sphere and in the realm of artistic endeavor, the boundaries of free choice have been substantially expanded. In periods of crisis, the space for free choice (and consequently the degree of personal responsibility for decisions made), is much greater than in periods of the stable development of society. The l. of the human being always has specific contents and is manifested in different spheres. In the economic sphere, human beings can be free if they have access to some of the means of production or necessities of life such as land, housing, money. Human beings can be deprived of private property, but this occurs because such property remains in the hands of other owners. Yet the possibility today that the means and sources of production be worker-owned (*Worker ownership ) inaugurates a new stage in the field of economic freedom. In the political sphere, l. means the possession of all civil rights, shared administration, and the possibility for people to independently determine their own interests and actions. In the cultural sphere l. entails creative freedom and independence from the taste and will of others. In the spiritual realm, l. means the right to hold or not to hold socially accepted beliefs, and the opportunity to practice any faith or atheism without prohibition or coercion. One’s l. cannot infringe on the l. of others, and this means that there must exist common rules of conduct, common responsibility, and symmetrical obligations and rights. Even anarchism (*), in declaring itself in favor of absolute l. of the individual and against authority, recognizes interdependence and solidarity as indispensable conditions for personal l., i.e., as a natural and normal self-limitation of l. The l. of human beings is first and foremost the capacity to determine for themselves and without external pressures their own conduct and decisions. Moral l. is not the same as amorality or nihilism, although these categories also have to be regarded as manifestations of human l. Moral l. is a creative, innovative, personally independent attitude toward traditions, taboos, and punishments that are linked to moral coercion. L. is not synonymous with arbitrariness, which is, rather, a form of alienation since it is manifested in an anti-humanist manner in the coercion of the intentionality of others. Authentic human l. cannot be limited to a single individual, but inevitably implies the presence of l. in others as well.