In his much-awaited address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, after the catastrophic attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, President George W



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In his much-awaited address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, after the catastrophic attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush used the word “freedom” thirteen times,1 often in contexts calculated to bring his listeners to identify freedom as an especially, if not uniquely, American concept, and to feel that freedom, especially American freedom, was grievously threatened by the attacks themselves and the possibility of similar attacks in the future. The speech, addressed to a Congress and nation still reeling from the shock of the suicide attacks, was regarded as a defining moment of his presidency, in which he was seen firmly to have established himself as the leader of his people in an earth-shaking struggle between the US and a shadowy foreign enemy.

In retrospect, it may not seem immediately clear in what sense he meant that freedom was endangered; however, he was unquestionably participating in a long tradition of appeals to freedom in American political discourse. In order better to understand President Bush’s use of “freedom”, it is may be useful to keep in mind some of the uses of the word in language in general, and to see in how many different ways Americans, both politicians and ordinary citizens have appropriated it to their own purposes.

Some uses are clearly irrelevant: the sense of “free of charge” i.e., offered without expectation of payment (free beer) can be dismissed straightaway.2 Similarly, the freedom from the constraints of time and space that is conferred by technological advances will be left to one side, although there is little question that the mechanical and other inventions that have characterized human history have removed obstacles of many kinds to action and the achievement of objectives. Internet videophone technology overcomes limitations on sight and hearing, and hundreds of generations ago, the wheel or the pulley freed people from the limits of their physical strength, much as writing made possible an escape from the limits of memory.

The freedom investigated here will be of a more political kind: the kind that can be protected (or abused) by social and governmental structures and agencies. In this context, it is of some use to point out a distinction that is the object of debate: that between freedom and liberty. Some authors, such as Ian Carter in his article on Positive and Negative Liberty in the Stanford on-line Encyclopedia of Philosophy3, regard them as synonymous; others, such as David Hackett Fischer, who discusses the etymologies of the two words in the introduction to his Liberty and Freedom4, or Geoffrey Nunberg, who remarks upon historical usage patterns5. Though these discussions raise very interesting points, I will, for the purposes of the course, consider “freedom” and “liberty” to be synonyms.

Regarding “freedom” and “liberty” as synonymous leaves more room for discussion of philosophical questions and controversies about the nature of freedom and how to achieve it.

One rather straight-forward looking distinction is that between “freedom from” and “freedom to”, in other words, the absence of interference (“freedom from”, e.g., legal constraints or prohibitions) and the actual possibility of performing an act (“freedom to” e.g., engage in trade or in religious activities). Though this distinction is intuitively satisfying, and certainly gives an opportunity to begin to reflect on the complexities of the notion of freedom/liberty, it does not offer as much flexibility and nuance as is required. The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits government from making any law establishing a religion (freedom from government interference). Individuals have the right to practice the religion of their choice, but not necessarily the power to do so: is one free to practice one’s religion if it requires that worship or rituals be performed in the company of others, who may be far distant? To what extent, if at all, should government, i.e., society, protect or assist such a practice (or others).

A somewhat more philosophical, abstract approach to this distinction is that between positive and negative freedom. The best known presentation of this distinction is that of Isaiah Berlin, in his essay called “Two Concepts of Liberty”6. (Berlin is a deceptively lucid writer, such that the points he makes seem clear, even obvious, as one is reading, but the reader quickly realizes how complex his reasoning is when s/he tries to reproduce it.) By negative liberty, to schematize and (over)simplify, Berlin means an absence of obstacles to an individual’s action (allied to the notion of “freedom from”; the freedom conferred by the wheel is another example: the limits imposed by human physical strength can be overcome or circumvented by using a mechanical aid); by positive liberty, he refers to the authority or power that decides what the individual should do: an individual’s freedom is greater to the extent that s/he makes more decisions about his or her behavior. To this he adds that human agency is essential in the definitions: if there are no gates to block off one fork in the road, there is no obstacle to choosing one or the other, but the choice can only usefully be made if the individual is actually in possession of the car, horse, shoes, etc. that would make travel meaningfully possible. This seems simple enough; however, in ordinary language, one is deprived of liberty by another person or human institution, not by random chance: if a tree has fallen across one of the roads, it seems intuitively absurd to claim that the traveler has been deprived of a liberty, as he would have been if a gate had been deliberately closed across one of the roads. If another can deprive an individual of negative liberty, the other can perhaps also contribute to positive liberty. President Lyndon Johnson seems to have had some such idea in mind when he said at Howard University in 1965, “...it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates”7 It is worth at least parenthetical observation that part of the discussion of positive and negative liberty on the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy calls into question the usefulness of the distinction,8 and it is true that there are situations in which it is difficult to apply.

‘negative‘ : ‘What is the area within which the subject - a person or group of persons - is or should be left to do what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?’

‘positive‘ :‘What, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than that?’

(from soho note in uptodate: MX & MLK had very different objectives, very different visions of how to achieve end of discrimination, freedom for afams, but both wanted freedom for afams, i.e., shared to that extent in American ideology / “American dream” (link to Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford, eds. The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory (in soho) )

also in uptodate: notion of freedom from constraints of time & space, even physics: modern (transportation) technology, cars, airplanes (flight) etc.

parallel to, though not identical to, notion of freedom of movement, migration etc.

positive liberty who decides

negative, what are limits of action from soho)

1. is this the same as “freedom to” vs “freedom from”?

a. see Dewey in soho

2. this might be the place to discuss slavery - what options are available, who decides what action to take / what option to choose



D. controversies e.g.,

1. extent to which, and in what way, gvt should intervene to insure individual freedom.

a. Foner

b. Hayek

2. freedoms in collision

a. recent case of conservative religious group suing against gay marriage on grounds that gay marriage offends their religious principles / beliefs

E. Liberty rhetoric (see also fischer for this) www.library.csi.cuny.edu—start.htmla site about uses of liberty rhetoric mostly in 19C women’s mvts.

F. freedom as (momentary) escape

1. cars provide an opportunity to get away from ordinary constraints

2. reading may provide a similar opportunity

It’s an old and reassuring story: bookish boy or girl enters the cool, dark library and discovers loneliness and freedom.

FUTURE READING

Digitization and its discontents.

by Anthony Grafton

NOVEMBER 5, 2007

III• idea of freedom / rights not self-evident

A. various attempts to find origins of notions “origins of the bill of rights”, etc.

B. i.e., humans often live in societies in which codes of behavior are dictated by social hierarchy, and notion of individual rights is contradiction in terms

1. however, keep Dewey in mind: individual can only be realized w/in framework of society

C. notion of individual rights / freedom is relatively recent western one

IV• rights, discrimination & affirmative action, also notion of citizenship



see Stanford article about civil rights

A. civil rights ≈

B. three generations of civil rights

1. civil rights (political equality)

2. economic rights

3. cultural rights

in the Stanford article, it is pointed out that there is at least a potential for contradiction between the protection of cultural heritages (more or less the foundation of multiculturalism) and affirmative action, whose objective is to bring // integrate the members of the target group unambiguously into the mainstream group.

V• kinds of freedom + notion of rights + citizenship



It seems important at some point to insist that rights apply to people / individuals and that governments / institutions have powers, but not rights

at first glance (08/07/2008 08:00) it appears to me that the notion of rights implies or is founded on the notion of a government that insures / guarantees / secures the rights (“that to secure these rights...”), whereas the notions of freedom, whether positive, negative or whatever, do not seem to require a government, though they don’t rule it out.

NB citizenship implies or at least appears to imply certain rights but not necessarily all -

A. civil rights

1. suffrage

a. NB citizenship implies or at least appears to imply certain rights but not necessarily suffrage cf. bl suffrage 1870, wmn suffrage 1920

2. of speech / expression

3. of religion

4. from slavery

5. from police intrusion & abuse

a. habeas corpus i.e., from indefinite imprisonment before / w/out charges brought before court / tribunal

b. speedy & public trial i.e., from indefinite imprisonment before / w/out trial

c. self-incrimination i.e., (among other things) from torture

B. econ rights

1. (4 freedoms) from want i.e., minimum wage, housing,

VI• observers



A. crevecoeur

B. toqueville

C. chevalier

D. dickens

E. f kemble

F. dhlawrence

G. foner

H. fischer

In American politics, victory always went to the parties and leaders with the strongest and clearest visions of liberty and freedom, sometimes on the left and in other periods on the right.

Other political parties drifted away from ideas of liberty and freedom and allowed their opponents to take possession of these ideas. ... This error has often happened in American history. It has always been fatal for parties and presidents who made it.

DHFischer Visual History p 720

VII• political figures & events



A. paine

B. TJ unalienable rights

C. GW importance of union

D. AL freedom to slave freedom to free / reconstruction / union

E. IWW 06-16

F. Wilson new freedom

G. FDR 4 freedoms

H. mlk free at last

I. Berkeley 60s

J. GWB

K. B Obama

VIII• philosophers & thinkers



A. milton

B. mill

C. berlin positive & negative (see plato.stanford.edu—liberty-positive-negative)

D. Emerson

E. wm James

F. j Dewey

G. rawls

H.

IX• symbols



A. liberty bell

B. liberty ship

C. liberty tree

D. free land free labor free men

E. statue of liberty

1. see e.g., xroads.virginia.edu—lady_frm.htmlarticle about female symbol of liberty

F. freedom riders

G. freedom fries

X• American attitudes toward freedom



A. exceptionalism

B. appeals to history

C. association w/ free market

1. NB notion of econ rights in Stanford ency article on civil rights

2. source of conflict

econ rights suggest gvt protection of individual, therefore gvt intervention, whereas free mkt / free enterprise suggest exercise of entrepreneurial activity w/out constraint / interference by gvt (regulation)

NB there is often a paradoxical conflict between advocates of a free market and advocates of multiculturalism, (i.e., between economic and cultural “libertarians”)

D. fischer

In American politics, victory always went to the parties and leaders with the strongest and clearest visions of liberty and freedom, sometimes on the left and in other periods on the right.

Other political parties drifted away from ideas of liberty and freedom and allowed their opponents to take possession of these ideas. ... This error has often happened in American history. It has always been fatal for parties and presidents who made it.

DHFischer Visual History p 720

XI• specific examples / cases



A. religious freedom

B. freedom of speech

1. (see soho) what about libel & slander, pornography, hate speech

2. dworkin article in nyrb 1992 “The United States stands alone, even among democracies, in the extraordinary degree to which its constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press” http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2886

3. waldron nyrb 2008 “The United States, says Anthony Lewis, is the most outspoken society on earth: "Americans are freer to think what we will and say what we think than any other people." If I were to write that George W. Bush is the worst president we have ever had, and that his vice-president and former secretary of defense are war criminals, I would not expect to be arrested for my impudence. It would be business as usual in America. "Today," says Lewis, "every president is the target of criticism and mockery. It is inconceivable that even the most caustic critic would be imprisoned for his or her words.”

“Lewis notes that the United States differs from almost every other advanced democracy in the protection it currently gives to hate speech.” www.nybooks.com—21452

4. plato.stanford.edu—freedom-speech

5. relation between Amdt I & harassment www.law.ucla.edu—harass

6. links www.bc.edu—historicdocuments.htmlc



XII• music

A. eg protest songs (form of free speech)

B. taking liberties w/ lyrics

1 The text of the speech is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html. Consulted September 3, 2008.

2 A Wikipedia article offers the distinction between “gratis” and “libre”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_or_libre. Consulted September 3, 2008.

3 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative/ Consulted September 4, 2008.

4 Fischer, David Hackett. Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

5 See a summary of his views at http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=771652. Consulted September 4, 2008.

6 Berlin, Isaiah, Henry Hardy, and Ian Harris. Liberty : Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. [One of the four essays is “Two Concepts”]

7 http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/650604.asp. Consulted September 5, 2008.

8 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative/ Consulted September 4, 2008.

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