what do we mean by liberty?

In his 2005 essay “Liberating ‘Liberatory’ Education, or What Do We mean by ‘Liberty’ Anyway?“, Jeffrey Ringer critiques the work of critical pedagogues in composition who do not reflect critically on their use of the concept of liberty. He writes that his “central concern […] deals with the way in which North Americans have habitualized oversimplified definitions of liberty“ (774). In particular, the conceptions of liberty proposed by many of the critical pedagogues Ringer critiques implicitly equate liberty with individualism and freedom from constraints (761-762). Ringer writes that “liberty is not just freedom from constraint“; nor is it getting freedom at someone else’s expense (769). Instead, liberty needs to be defined as freedom to and needs to be “cooperative, collective, and communal“ (763). Drawing from the work of political philosopher Yves Simon, Ringer believes there are three concepts central to liberty: authority, autonomy, and the common good. Authority, which should not be confused with authoritarianism, “acts inclusively for the benefit of others“ and “works to engender (or perfect) autonomy in those over whom it has authority“ (771). Autonomy for Ringer is not freedom of choice, as it is often construed by liberal individualism, but instead “means that one wills what he or she chooses. It is just that what he or she chooses accords with just laws“ (774). Autonomy, then, is the choice of doing what is just or is right and “resonates with the collective aims of critical pedagogy“ because its emphasis on just choices affirms egalitarian relations (775). The common good is not just a common intention, but is rather “an end of such a nature that it has to be intended in common and achieved through common action“ (775, qting. Simon, emphasis original). Ringer’s vision of common good is an egalitarian, democratic society, which, drawing on the work of Paulo Freire, strives to develop the full humanity of citizens through fellowship and solidarity. “[T]his fellowship,“ for Ringer, “must be characterized by dialogue, a process that would allow individuals in communities to collaboratively establish and critically reflect upon their goals“ (776). This dialogue is characterized by the virtues of a non-sentimental but committed love, humility, and faith (777). Ringer concludes by asserting that liberty “necessitates Freirean praxis, the coupling of action and reflection that occur repeatedly and continuously“ (779).

Ringer, Jeffrey M. “Liberating ‘Liberatory’ Education, or What Do We mean by ‘Liberty’ Anyway?“ JAC 25.4 (2005): 761-782.

This entry was posted in Critical Pedagogy, Philosophy 599: Creative Demcracies (Spring 2007). Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to what do we mean by liberty?

  1. sophia says:

    Word, I think you should have written my undergrad thesis for me 🙂

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