Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966)
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Freedom means more than mere emancipation. It is primarily freedom of conscience, bound up with inner allegiance. The danger begins when freedom is thought to consist of the fact that “I can act as I desire.” This definition not only overlooks the compulsions which often lie behind our desires; it reveals the tragic truth that freedom may develop within itself the seed of its own destruction. The will is not an ultimate and isolated entity, but determined by motives beyond its own control. To be what one wants to be is also not freedom, since the wishes of the ego are largely determined by external factors…Freedom presupposes the capacity for sacrifice. Man’s true fulfillment cannot be reached by the isolated individual, and his true good depends on communion with, and participation in, that which transcends him. Each challenge from beyond the person is unique, and each response must be new and creative… The glory of a free society lies not only in the consciousness of my right to be free, and my capacity to be free, but also in the realization of my fellow man’s right to be free, and his capacity to be free. The issue we face is how to save man’s belief in his capacity to be free.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What is freedom here?

2. How do we go about (re)claiming our own freedom and the freedom of others?

3. What social justice themes emerge from this text?

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Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)