Freedom From Reality

Freedom From Reality

The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty

Book - 2017
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It is commonly observed that behind many of the political and cultural issues that we face today there are impoverished conceptions of freedom, which, according to D. C. Schindler, we have inherited from the classical liberal tradition without a sufficient awareness of its implications. Freedom from Reality presents a critique of the deceptive and ultimately self-subverting character of the modern notion of freedom, retrieving an alternative view through a new interpretation of the ancient tradition. While many have critiqued the inadequacy of identifying freedom with arbitrary choice, this book seeks to penetrate to the metaphysical roots of the modern conception by going back, through an etymological study, to the original sense of freedom.

Schindler begins by uncovering a contradiction in John Locke's seminal account of human freedom. Rather than dismissing it as a mere "academic" problem, Schindler takes this contradiction as a key to understanding the strange paradoxes that abound in the contemporary values and institutions founded on the modern notion of liberty: the very mechanisms that intend to protect modern freedom render it empty and ineffectual. In this respect, modern liberty is "diabolical"--a word that means, at its roots, that which "drives apart" and so subverts. This is contrasted with the "symbolical" (a "joining-together"), which, he suggests, most basically characterizes the premodern sense of reality. This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.

Publisher: Notre Dame, Indiana : University of Notre Dame Press, [2017]
ISBN: 9780268102616
Branch Call Number: 123.5
Characteristics: ix, 486 pages ; 24 cm.


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Apr 28, 2018

In the modern (Western) world, freedom has long been regarded as a good in itself, rather than a means by which what is good can be chosen. Paradoxically, this elevation of freedom to the position of the highest good requires the denial of all other goods, and even goodness itself. According to Schindler, the problem begins with metaphysics, as modern political philosophers, typified by Locke, have inverted the classical relationship between potency and act. Rather than seeing power and possibility as always preceded by and rooted in an already existent reality, freedom has been understood to exist before, above, and independent of actuality. It is in this inversion that he uncovers the origins of the superficially contradictory modern propensities for atomistic individualism and totalitarian government. By rejecting the given in favor of the manufactured and valuing appearance over substance, modernity promises that each individual will be the god of his own private world, but that world is entirely solitary and, in the end, vanishingly small.

If the modern concept of freedom is, as Schindler argues, inherently diabolical, that is, predicated on division, the path to replace alienation with integration leads through a rediscovery of the symbolical, which is predicated upon unity. He begins to explore this path in the final chapters of the present book, but a fuller discovery and recovery must wait for a promised sequel, which should be eagerly anticipated. Freedom from Reality is as dense as it is deep, and no short summary can do justice to the scope and subtlety of its analysis. Schindler himself is at great pains not to oversimplify the complexities of the thinkers whose thoughts he explores. It is a rigorous, philosophical work and not a manifesto, but all the more explosive for it.


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