Friday, 10 May 2013

Liberate Yourself for You

Emancipate yourself for yourself.                  - Epistle 1

     What is Liberty?  We talk about it often in our post-Enlightenment world.  Classical liberals might think it means not paying too much tax to the government or having the constitutional freedom to be as fanatically religious or non-religious as they choose to be.  Our modern liberals from the New Left might think it is the ability to scorn our society's time honoured traditions and be as hyper-individualistic (and, paradoxically, egalitarian) as possible.
   But what is Liberty for the stoic?  What does the stoic mean when he urges his student to free or emancipate himself for himself?  
   For the stoic, true Liberty is to be free of the things which are truly evil.  Taxes and religious oppression are not in themselves evil.  A gap between the rich and the poor is not an evil either, nor is having a passport that says you are a female when you feel like you should be a male.  
  True Liberty is freedom from Vice.  Fear, Anger, Sadness (that is, Depression), Foolishness, Intemperance, Impulsiveness, Selfishness - these are the things the Stoic emancipates himself from.  And he does it for himself, for his own sake, because it is the only thing he can do for himself. 
    Once a man has freed himself from vice, he is at liberty to be virtuous.