Citizen Philosopher: What is Liberty?

The Citizen Philosophers met at the Central branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library on August 6, 2008, to discuss an important question of our time: “What is Liberty?”

Participating were veteran citizen philosophers, Billie Lagerwerff, David Rood, Deborah Martin, Derek Breen, John Tytus, Stephen Whiteman, Steven Stokes, Susan Patrick, and Uriah J. Fields. Also joining us for the first time were newcomers, Erica Jensen and Rebbecca Quinn from Charlottesville. All the way from some undisclosed location near Brighton, England, through the wonders of modern Internet technology, we had our first international guest, an insightful chap by the name of Luke. A hearty welcome to Luke, Erica, and Rebbecca.

As usual we had a wide ranging and thoughtful discussion that raised as many or more questions and than it answered. Here are some of the questions we wrestled with:

Is liberty just a quaint and outdated word for freedom? What is freedom? Can we talk about one without the other? Is liberty personal, social, or political? Who decides our liberties? Our government? Our culture? Our conscience? What are we to be liberated from? Who or what oppresses us? Can we ever be completely liberated? Can we ever be completely free? Are wild animals free? Was Robinson Crusoe free on the deserted island? Was he liberated? Can we be free if we must continuously struggle for basic necessities? Does society curtail our freedoms or enhance them by providing a structure that eases the burden of survival? To what extent is freedom a question of attitude? To what extent is liberty a question of law? Does freedom for one come at the expense of freedom for another? Is it right to suspend civil liberties in the name of defending freedom? Is fear the enemy of freedom? Do our fears enslave us or protect us? Is it possible to have too much freedom? Does absolute freedom corrupt absolutely? Is liberation always a good thing? Doesn’t national liberation lead to chaos? Doesn’t personal liberation lead to the anxiety of choice? If we don’t exercise the freedoms we have, do they matter? To what end do we seek freedom? Is liberation an ends in itself, or just another beginning?

The next Thinking Out Loud discussion will take place on September 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the same location.