Some may say that lunatics are rarely all the way insane. There are in many lunatics occasional bits of what appear to be sanity. That is true. But a lunatic who is sane every now and again is like the broken clock which is right twice a day. The correspondence to reality is not due to the nature of the clock's accuracy or the lunatic's sanity, but rather to the mere passage of time. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then and even a lunatic, given enough opportunity, appears to make some sane choices. But we understand that if one's nature is that of a lunatic, then any choice's correspondence with sanity has little to do with the presence of reasonableness. The lunatic does not make a sane choice because he is sane, but because sometimes his insanity coincidentally corresponds with sanity. If every choice is available to the lunatic, then surely they will sometimes choose what we'd deem to be the sane choice. But his sane choice, in light of his true nature and intent, leaves him a lunatic.
It may be true that fallen humanity has many choices available to us. We are indeed "free" in this sense. But I would argue that the modern understanding of **libertarian freedom, then, is a load of rubbish, for it is clear that it is our freedom which is our constraint. True freedom is not the availability of alternative choice, but the constraint of inappropriate choices. Just as I don't have to worry about breaking my leg from jumping out a three story window, as my constrained nature prevents the choice to fly from being on the table for me, so it is the same spiritually. I will be free only when my nature is redeemed and constrained in its choices, for only then will I always live in right relationship with self, others, God, and nature. Only when my choice is constrained will I be able to always live as I was intended. Freedom, then, is not the ability to choose, as the lunatic so clearly shows us. Rather, freedom is the ability to only choose rightly. This is why the new heaven and earth, places of great constraint where we cannot sin anymore, are also the places of absolute freedom. While I will no longer be able to choose to set myself up as God, it is only there - where our wills are constrained by our new natures - that we will be able to live out who we truly are and as we were truly meant to be. Only there will we live without the insane, fictitious natures and narratives which cloud our decisions now.
To choose rightly we must first be rendered sane, in order to see the world as it truly is rather than as that which we have created it to be in our darkened minds. And to be sane is to be constrained in our choices. Without this change of nature - without the acquisition of sanity - any "right" choice we make prior to gaining our sanity is really no reflection of a change in our hearts and minds. It is simply a happy coincidence - a choice that is not meaningful because the cause behind it is not that of sanity, but of circumstance.
*[The use of the word "lunatic" isn't politically is a reference to G.K. Chesterton's analogy and use of the word in his book, "Orthodoxy." We generally don't use that word today unless it''s in a pejorative sense, but I mean it in the more antiquated, technical sense.]
**[Please note that "libertarian" here refers to philosophical libertarians and their free will notions, not political libertarians]
*** [I recognize that proponents of LFW don't argue that more choices equate to freedom, but rather the ability to do otherwise. I understand that in one sense, but I also think it fails to acknowledge reality. They usually scoff at a compatibilist's "could but wouldn't," yet end up bumping into this reality all the time. While I "could," in theory, jump out of a third story window right now, I know that I can't do that. The choice is just not on the table for me. While I could do it physically, my mind could not cause my body to do such an injurious thing in my present circumstances. So when I use the availability of alternate choices, I don't merely mean the presence of options, but options which one could actually have the ability to choose.]
for philosophers such as Aristotle, freedom was not an end in itself; we became free only as we acquired the moral capability to guide our lives. To lack such capability was to be subject to the undisciplined desires and choices of the immature. Thus freedom did not reside in making choices but in being the kind of person for whom certain options simply were not open. For example, the courageous could not know the fears of the coward though they were required to know the fears appropriate to being courageous. Only the virtuous person could be free, insofar as freedom was not so much a status as a skill. In contrast to our sense of “freedom of choice” the virtuous person was not confronted by “situations” about which he or she was to make a decision, rather the person determined the situation by insisting on understanding it not as a “situation” but as an event in a purposive narrative. Character determines circumstance, even when the circumstance may be forced upon us, by our very ability to interpret our actions in a story that accounts for moral activity.
In contrast, the modern conception has made freedom the content of the moral life itself. It matters not what we desire, but that we desire. Our task is to become free, not through the acquisition of virtue, but by preventing ourselves from being determined, so that we can always keep our “options open.” We have thus become the bureaucrats of our own history, seeking never to be held responsible for any decisions, even for those we ourselves have made. This attempt to avoid our history, however, results in the lack of the self-sufficiency to claim our lives as our own. For as we look back on our lives, many of the decisions we thought we were making freely, seem now to have been more determined than we had realized. We say: “If I only knew then what I know now.” Using this as a means to claim nonresponsibility for our past, we imagine that next time we will really act “freely.” As a result we tend to think the moral life and ethical reflection are concerned with prospective decisions and the securing of the conditions necessary to insure that those “decisions” will be free. We ignore the fact that the more important moral stance is retrospective, because it is in remembering and accepting that we learn to claim our lives as our own—including those decisions that in retrospect were less than free. Ironically, my freedom turns out to depend on my ability to make my own that which I did not do with “free choice” but which I cannot do without. For what we are, our sense of ourselves, rests as much on what we have suffered as what we have done.
The modern assumption that freedom is the necessary and sufficient condition of morality is not easily changed, for it also determines how we govern our social relations. Our society seems generally to think that to be moral, to act in a responsible way, is to pursue our desires fairly—that is, in a manner that does not impinge on anyone else’s freedom. We assume we can do as we want so long as we do not harm or limit anyone else’s choices. A good society is one that provides the greatest amount of freedom for the greatest number of people. Although such an ethic appears to be highly committed to the common good, in fact its supporting theory is individualistic, since the good turns out to be the sum of our individual desires. Even more troubling than this individualism is the price we pay in holding this view of ourselves and others; the price is nothing less than a systematic form of self-deception. Insofar as we are people who care about anything at all, we necessarily impinge on the “freedom” of others. But we act as if we do not, thus hiding from ourselves and others the truth that we are necessarily tied together in a manner that mutually limits our lives. We have taught ourselves to describe our moral convictions as our “personal desires,” implying thereby that they need not significantly affect others. In fact, however, there is no morality that does not require others to suffer for our commitments. But there is nothing wrong with asking others to share and sacrifice for what we believe to be worthy. A more appropriate concern is whether what we commit ourselves to is worthy or not.
As a result of our self-deception our relations have become unrelentingly manipulative. We see ourselves and others as but pawns engaged in elaborate games of power and self-interest. I do not mean to suggest that there has ever been a time or social order from which manipulation was absent. What is new about our present situation is that our best moral wisdom can conceive of no alternative. We seem able only to suggest ways to make the game more nearly fair. We are unable to provide an account of a morality worthy of requiring ourselves and others to suffer and thus releasing us from the prison of our own interests.
Our stress on freedom and its ethical expression renders us incapable of accounting for certain activities which seem central to the human project. Consider something as simple as the decision to have children. In an ethics of freedom how can we justify such a decision when it clearly involves an imposition of our will and desires on that new life. No amount of good care and/ or love could be sufficient to redress the imbalance of freedom in this situation. We have forced this being into existence to satisfy our desires! In the ethos of freedom the relationship between parents and children cannot help but induce resentment and the resulting bargaining games. We resent the time our children require of us and they resent the burden of guilt they feel for what appears to be our begrudging care for them. We are thus caught in a web of manipulation from which we seem unable to escape.