There is no Freedom without Human Ethics and Moral

Published on Current Concerns, by Dr Thomas Huber, Issue no 18, October 2010.

Let me start with two quotations, one from Benjamin Franklin who said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” and one from Wilhelm Freiherr von Humboldt: “Safety is the prerequisite for freedom!”.

Let me define security and freedom at the beginning of my talk.

First about safety: an individual is in safety if he or she is in a state without imminent danger for life or property, if constitutional and democratic institutions function reliably and permanently and if a flux of reliable and independent information is available.

When I was beginning to work on the topic, I could not help searching through Google for something viable on the topic! I didn’t do that for long: several ten thousand entries were dealing with security – it seems to be one of the lasting problems of modern man, demanding “safety” in all situations and for any price, even at the expense of other values.

About freedom: according to Kant, the dignity of humans consists of the autonomy of will, of freedom. This freedom is the basis of any human constitution and hence the basis of the democratic and constitutional principle. External freedom is independence from despotism or force exerted by others. Inner freedom is based on decency which is impossible without morals.

Loss of Proportionality: … //

… Human Ethics:

Which prerequisites are needed for a change?

Education in the humanities is more necessary than ever because the question cannot be: Goethe or Google? Who should explain the future, the world, to our students? Of course it is natural that students should learn practical abilities in school: reading, writing, mathematics, googling and how to work with a PC and the internet. But it is crucial that schools convey ideals and their context which actually precede any practical individual usefulness. Above all, culture is to be realized as a network where all things are connected. For example, we see motives from the Greek mythology or the Bible in the opera, in theater, in museums, but also in many things of daily life. Those versed in them see the world as a book that can be read in many layers, giving him the bliss of insight beyond any material usefulness.

What is needed? Our times are characterized by the extremes of hope and disappointment. The great expectations we have are destroyed by the edgy limits of reality.

Restore bona fide:

The writer and pioneer of journalism Matthias Claudius was right: Humans need a solid base. Lofty ideas cannot be built on sand.

We need reliable people. People who are serious when giving a promise. Prophets preaching against the stream of the  zeitgeist. People with providence, perspective and goals in life; people whom we can trust. No scaremongers or alarmists but those who encourage. No pessimists but people bringing hope. Probably we need leadership rather than management, in all areas.

The belief in a universal creation which has regained some strength now is no insurance against suffering, no vaccine against everyday hardship and sorrow. And still it releases forces to cope with suffering before it overwhelms us and before we are destroyed by the theodicy question.

God is neither a guarantor for morals nor does religion provide a world view. But morals and a world view are a question of the rationality of man and, hence, a proof of his or her adulthood.

What we should not forget is this: The happiness we are all looking for is far from granted. If happiness is not realized, people feel cheated and look for a culprit.

In the journal “Le Temps”, the French sociologist Pascal Bruckner wrote that since the 60s our societies live in the age of the “search for happiness”. This happiness is considered as an entitlement acquired by birth. If it does not come true, people feel cheated and start looking for a culprit. The risks of life are in fact incompatible with happiness. So, if it comes to the worst, someone must have prevented happiness and provoked harm. Suffering, death,  all the risks of life, are unacceptable. Victims attain a sacred aura. Based on victimization, a new social contract is closed, creating a culture of compensation which lends the state an almost divine function – especially in a society trying to get rid of any religious ritual.

Tangible in Responsibility:

Finally a revelation of our national saint – for me one of the greatest Swiss personages, if not the greatest (without him we would probably not be assembled here in this style): Nicholas of Flüe [or Brother Klaus, 1417-1487]. His advice “don’t set the fence too far” made the agreement of Stans feasible [where a severe conflict between the cities and the countryside was settled] and saved the Old Swiss Confederacy. The message, however, is a general one. It says, in other words: Stay small, calculable, measurable, transparent, solidary and accountable for your countrymen! Certainly this will guarantee freedom. (full long text).

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