Brave New World 2: What is "freedom"?

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Near the end of the book, Savage and Mond argue about the nature of freedom. Savage argues that people in the Brave New World have no freedom and therefore lead unfulfilled lives. But Mond counters that people have just enough to do, and that makes them happy. People work, enjoy the feelies, take soma, and they're conditioned to be satisfied with their lot.  Savage replies with his call to arms: "I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

How much freedom is required to have a fulfilling life? How much risk, and how much consequence, should society allow for for individuals? When should society intervene to prevent someone making mistakes or poor choices? If people are prevented from making bad choices, are they also prevented from living life to the full? How much pain and hardship should we allow to happen?

For instance, should we provide a welfare state, to provide some basic level of food, shelter, and medical care for all? Should we provide some work, or meaningful work, for everyone? Should we provide free education to all, and to what level (primary school or bachelors degree)?

Does it make a difference if the society that intervenes is The State, or more local groups such as a  church congregation?

Comments

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    I don't think being forced to starve, being denied shelter or medical care, or being kept ignorant is freedom - quite the reverse. I don't think anyone should be deprived of those things as a result of decisions.

    So I think everyone is entitled to medical care, sufficient food, shelter, and as much education as they can stomach, regardless of circumstances. And this doesn't impinge on their freedom. All sorts of things might be lost by poor decisions, but not what I see as the basics, things which are societal as well as personal goods.

    It should be the duty of a reasonably advanced reasonably prosperous society to do this.

    Should it be the state that does this? Well in practical terms the state has the resources, and can make the laws with the population's consent. If these things are to be guaranteed as universal rights by law, only the state can do it.

    There could be independent bodies doing this, independent of governing bodies. Checks and balances. But I don't think an organisation in private hands could be trusted.

    As for work, that's another matter, and I need to think.
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    I agree with Paul on all the matters he touched upon. With respect to where the responsibility lies, I'd only add that you can vote for your government, but not for your church leadership, and churches have certainly not shown themselves to be free from abuse. Western democracies are also fickle, as most of you well know, and need protecting. And, I think, that's where novels like this have a role to play.

    What particular social ills or ideas was Huxley trying to address in this book, do you think?

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I agree with Paul on all the matters he touched upon. With respect to where the responsibility lies, I'd only add that you can vote for your government, but not for your church leadership, and churches have certainly not shown themselves to be free from abuse. Western democracies are also fickle, as most of you well know, and need protecting. And, I think, that's where novels like this have a role to play.

    Some churches do allow for voting in leadership, or at minimum the opportunity to ratify a decision. But I do agree that often the situation is set up, and emotionally laden, in such a way as to rubber-stamp the choice that existing leadership want.

    What particular social ills or ideas was Huxley trying to address in this book, do you think?

    The prologue in my edition suggests (pace my US friends) that he was trying to combat what he believed to be the ills of Americanism, and the tendency for American ideas and mores to inevitably creep elsewhere by osmosis. (Of course, in the previous century the same would be said of British ideas, and it's not clear to me what he thought of the whole empire-building thing).

    Back with the original starter from @NeilNjae , I would say that society always has tried to instil values into its youth in one way or another. In older societies this might be done by tribal elders, or by a complex honour / shame system pushing behaviour in one direction rather than another. Nowadays we have a whole mix of inputs, from parental and school influence to peer pressure, plus media pressure of more or less overt levels. I suppose some useful questions are how far a given individual is allowed to deviate from the defined norms without being in some way sanctioned, and to what extent dissident voices and views are allowed to have a public platform.

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