Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Freedom and madness

Freedom is in many ways an impossibility. We are always bound up to a socio-political system. Wherever we find ourselves, we will find ourselves bound to a social contract. If we are born free, any vestige of that freedom is lost once we are conditioned by society. Society prescribes a set of injunctions which we must follow. In liberal democracies, we can choose what oppresses us. Yet wherever we are led, we are still oppressed.

Still, we like to think that, despite this social contract, that we are autonomous agents. We can use our reason to act and think freely. Are we really free or are not in fact driven by a series of desires which pre-determines our behaviour? Are we instead driven by tactile, olfactory, sexual, intellectual etc. desires which predetermine our behaviour? Are we not ultimately figments? Are we not in fact comprised by a series of individual components which ultimately give an impression of consciousness and personality? All universal moral principles turn out to be illusory and moral judgements are merely acts of feeling and compassion.

In this sense, we have no freedom. The social contract is prescribed by political legislature and socio-economic causal factors. This means that we can never extricate ourselves from institutions, which are always repressive. We can't even behave freely in that it is predetermined by a congnitive make-up. If we choose to do certain tasks, we are driven by unconscious desires and mental and bodily needs.

Freedom must surely be subjective. It must be a priori, something that has no relation to the empirical world of cause and effect. It is not until we are in the empirical world that we are forced to act under duty. We can never be free because we are forced to act responsibly. We behave in certain ways because we are aware that, if we are truly free, it will have damaging outcomes. We filter what we can and can't say.  

If freedom is a priori, it must mean that only when we experience our pure essence that we are truly free. When we introspect, we have moments of freedom. When we dream we are not free, but we are apart from the world of phenomena. It is our innermost essence, untarnished by societal indoctrination. Lucid dreams could be seen as ultimate freedom in that we are able to control this 'essence.' It is not completely a priori in that empirical data has shaped our mind. However, we are neither experiencing daily phenomena nor are we required to behave like morally dutiful citizens.

Madness could be seen as freedom. As Michel Foucault has written, madness could be seen as an excessive use of reason which unleashes our inner animal. He sees it as a creative existential choice. Mad behaviour is completely indeterministic. We are not controlled by the processes outlined above because there is no mediator of noumena and phenomena.  We unleash desires which have been repressed by institutions. We do not act under moral duty nor even under any sense of feeling or compassion. In this sense, madness could be seen as the last possible reservoir of freedom.

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