Thursday, May 26, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

In his book After you Believe / Virtue Reborn, N.T. Wright states on p.202 in the latter:

“To accept appropriate moral constraints is not to curtail true freedom, but to create the conditions for it to flourish.”

What’s your take on Wright’s perspective?


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

I guess it depends on what one understands by freedom.

- If freedom is all-embracing moral constraints are not welcome as they hinder my freedom and own will.
- If freedom is understood as freedom under God and the possibility to do good, we needs moral constraints - reflecting God and his nature/character - to "define" good.

I prefer the second possibility because it opens the way to true freedom as Wright implies. And blessings, i.e. flourishing, will come too...

I sometimes see problems related to the little word appropriate Wright mentions. Maybe a lot of our curtailments and "unflourishing" as well as the opposition against moral constraints comes from inappropriate moral constraints. So we really need to take care about that, too.

Greg said...

Thanks. I think this is a well thought out comment.

I wonder what you might make of someone like Kant who would stand with you in seeing your first notion of freedom as a problem, though he would disagree with you on a preference for the second. Kant talks about freedom, or at least autonomy, and the moral law being necessary, so he prefers a re-working of the first notion, without adopting the second. At any rate, I agree with some form of the second notion of freedom that you put forward.

I also like very much you being attuned to appropriate and inappropriate moral constraints. We need to be hermeneutically critical in this regard.

Sisyphos said...

I wonder what he understands by moral constraints. Fixed rules echoing past times?

Greg said...

Thanks. I think he understands certain character traits like faith, love, and hope to have some kind of moral traction in terms of actions.

Most rules do precede our times, but moral constraints can't just be about keeping the rules.

carter said...

As always, my initial reaction is to think of MY freedom. That ignores the communal aspect of life. The idea of Wright reminds me of Robert Frost's admonition that good fences make good neighbors. When we know the boundaries, we are free to act within those boundaries without doing harm to those with whom we must interact. I can handle it.

Greg said...

Thanks. Good sense here. Boundaries are so essential for freedom. Hopefully we learn to act in faith, love, and hope when we interact with those that we must.

reneamac said...

Sure, I mean, think about what happens to us when we deny or reject those constraints. We aren't free, we become enslaved: sometimes through addiction, sometimes as we suffer the consequences of bucking meta-cultural morality/virtue, and then we feel trapped in our circumstances... not free at all.

Greg said...

Thanks. Any attempt to live without moral constraints in order to be free, amounts to not only being unwise, but to slavery as well.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

thank you for the ZigZag Cafés!

I have not read a lot about Kant of from Kant. You say someone like him would not adopt the second notion of freedom. Why? Because there is God in it? And not only God as someone, but as Lord? I can imagine this is not easy for a lot of people. Because fallen humanity wants to be free - free from God.
So I could try to find the way in the middle, as long as God stays in there. If I need to chose between 1)autonomy from God and 2)freedom under God's authority, I can not see a middle way at the moment. Is there any?

Greg, what is the "some form" you agree with? Or how would you formulate the second notion?

Carter, Greg, would it not be even better, if we had good neighbours without fences?

Greg said...

I wasn't looking for a middle way on your first comment and it's first point about freedom. In terms of Kant, I just wanted to highlight that there are some thinkers who want to embrace freedom and welcome moral constraints. Kant put forward some thoughts on this that Christians might want to agree with, in spite of drawing different conclusions about God than Kant.

In terms of 'some form' or a formulation of the second point, let me say that there are creational and salvific moral constraints. The former seem to, much of the time, function in humanity and therefore those not redeemed by Christ are capable of some good and hence some freedom. Others who are followers of Christ have access to a greater freedom through the specific salvific constraints that go further that those of creation.

Yes, good neighbors without fences, but even then some kind of boundaries are usually helpful for staying good neighbors.

carter said...

In the legal arena, there are often land disputes as to what constitutes an "invasion" (intentional or accidental) of another's land. Appropriate constraints (boundaries) let people know where they can and cannot go. Knowing where one can go, one then knows where his/her freedom flourishes and where it must end. In child custody agreements, the more sharply drawn the parameters, the easier it is for the parents to act with the child(ren) and in reliance on the solidity of their arrangement. Just an observation.

carter said...

Yes, Lukas, but good neighbors without fences can live without fences because (a) they respect each other's boundaries, (b) can openly forgive and ask for forgiveness, and (c) trust each other. But in a world in which we are to be as innocent as doves, we are also to be as wise as serpents.