The Journey series
Last week we looked at limits imposed on free will by reality and incompatibility. This week we will view those introduced by social interaction.
It is highly likely that if two people saw a slice of my wife’s coffee cake they would both want to eat it. This is not possible, a compromise must be met.
Every social group, be it family, club, business, nation, or even crime syndicate, builds up moral and legal codes to regulate issues where one party’s will is juxtaposed to another’s. There are two ways to gain adherence: by force or through reason.
All ancient societies imposed rule by conquest. A leader gathered supporters to defend against or attack other leaders. As Darwinian evolution predicates; the strong survived and the weak perished. Rule was by decree; insurrection was the only defense against tyranny.
Democracy arose with the advent of philosophy in Athens near the end of the sixth century BC, but there still remained four distinct social classes. Governance was restricted to adult males of the upper class and, even among them; power was concentrated within a wealthy and articulate few.
It was legal for one human to own another until slavery was abolished, first in Vermont in 1777 and then gradually around the world. Not until 1948 did the United Nations General Assembly adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes an article stating “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Despite this, people are still trafficking today, notably for sexual exploitation.
Women did not gain the right to vote until 1893 in New Zealand and then gradually around the world until, in 2015, Saudi Arabia finally granted women the right to vote.
There still remain a few people who have no right to vote, but even with the near-universal right to vote, various class systems prevent many from even advancing their proposals for consideration.
All members of groups implicitly agree to subordinate their will to those codes. In cases of dispute the first level of resolution is negotiation between the parties involved, the next levels involve appeals to the community, and the final resort is arbitration by tribunal. If a member refuses to abide by the moral and legal codes of the community they are excluded; by emigration, exile, incarceration, or execution.
Many believe rights are granted by the state but Judeo-Christians recognize that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is granted by God and only recognized by the state. The state may interpret particular applications of what God grants, but moral and legal codes are valid only as far as they reflect God’s natural law.
Our will is free only as far as it conforms to the norms of our society. For those of us who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our will is right only when it conforms to the will of our Lord.
Peter T Elliott