Freedom vs Licence


This blog post was published on Friday 20 March 2020.

Morality is essential to freedom. That is what John Locke meant when he contrasted liberty, the freedom to do what we ought, with licence, the freedom to do what we want.

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It is not that people [have become] immoral or amoral. That is palpably not so. We care about others. We volunteer. We give to charity. We have compassion. We have a moral sense. But our moral vocabulary [has] switched to a host of new concepts and ideas: autonomy, authenticity, individualism, selfactualisation, self-expression, self-esteem.

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We may still moralise, but we are reluctant to express guilt, remorse, or responsibility.

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Without self-restraint, without the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct, and without the habits of heart and deed that we call virtues, we will eventually lose our freedom.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Church Times, Friday 21 March 2020 (edited extracts from his book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in divided times)