Liberty 101

1) liberty as a lack (-) of external obstacles to an agent.
2) liberty as an agent’s possession (+) of control over his circumstances and faculties.

In the first instance, liberty concerns itself with the number of available avenues. (Absence of restrictions, “negative liberty.”) “Is there a sufficient lack of hindrances from others, circumstances, or design?” This concept of negative liberty concerns itself with interference from external bodies.

In the second instance, liberty is concerned with whether avenues can be taken autonomously. (Presence of control, “positive liberty.”) “Can I act of my own accord? Or do I lack the faculties? Am I being persuaded?” This concept of positive liberty concerns itself with interference from internal influences; an agent is self-determined, autonomous, and not subject to fatalism.

Should a governing agent promote positive freedom in those governed? Encourage another to make his own decisions? Or should those governed be subjected to paternalism, or sophistic influences? Is the average individual actually EQUIPPED to exercise his own positive liberty? To what extent should the exercise of one’s positive liberty be trusted?

Discussions of liberty are generally limited to the negative type: freedom of religion, speech, self-expression. Freedom from being imprisoned, bound against one’s will, or subjected to external hindrances. Maria is free to wander around Europe, work, eat, party, and be herself.

Positive liberty, on the other hand, is a much more elusive concept. Who would think to complain about a lack of positive liberty when he has been afforded so many negative liberties? If you are addicted to drugs, suffering from depression or anxiety, and fundamentally lacking control over your own faculties, you might lack in positive liberty–but you have only yourself to blame. On the other hand, if another body/agent actively coerces you, or attempts to steer you in directions without actually infringing on your negative liberty, you feel a deep sense of indignation. Someone’s use of intangible or non-legislated means to control your behavior is insufferable. Examples include lying, guilt-tripping, and imposed associative duties–all of which will seed themselves in the autonomy of the individual onto whom they have been imposed and disassociate him from his clear-mindedness. As the administration a drug would lead to an alteration in decision making, so these impositions have an effect.

Anyone who hopes to gain an adequate understanding of you and your behaviors ought to know this. The more others attempt to direct, patronize, or normalize you, the more boundaries you bend and break. The resistance burns at a near-cellular level. Your hackles raise and you resist, and guiltlessly.

In simpler terms: back off.

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