Monday, December 01, 2008

The price of freedom

When Eve and Adam ate from the apple in Paradise, they learned what freedom was but also what its limits are. In Paradise Eve and Adam were happy (I suppose), but not free. They could get everything they needed, but just for that reason they couldn’t choose. They simply got what they needed. However, there was one exception: the apple tree. When, urged by the snake, Eve picked an apple and ate from it, she made a substantial choice, and by doing this, she learned what it is to be free. And when Adam ate also a part of the apple, he had the same experience. But the consequence was that they were chased away from Paradise, and in this way Eve and Adam learned also what the limits are of being free and that freedom has a price.


Luzdeana said...

The story (I think) pretended to teach that men (and women) who dare to be free will be punished. However, it only proved that the price of freedom was worth paying, didn't it?

HbdW said...

Hello Diana,
The standard interpretation of the story is that man learned the difference between good and evil. However, like each story, you can give it many interpretations. Mine is another one, and yours, too.
If you don't make choices or are not able to make choices, you are not free. Then we often think of being surpressed but the life in Paradise showed that there is also another side of it: the absence of freedom because everything is possible. In both cases you are punished, if you take the step to be free, but it is it worth, unless you prefer to live in a prison.

Alexis said...

Hello Henk,
I haven't posted a comment in awhile, though I have visited your blog each week. The subject of freedom of the will fascinates me, as I've said before. I think returning to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve is a marvelous way to illustrate how the choices we make can affect us. I do believe in God, as you know, and I have read
the teachings of the religious theologian, C.S. Lewis. In his book, _Mere Christianity_, he addresses the issue of free will.
Many people have difficulty understanding the evil that exists in the world. "Is there a God," they ask, "if He could allow such things to go on?" Lewis is brilliant and effective in regard to explaining how God gave us the freedom of our wills at the moment of creation. He could easily have prevented Adam and Eve from disobeying Him, had He wanted to.
But in doing so, He would have been controlling their wills rather than letting them make their own decisions.

When you speak of it being better to be free, even if one is punished, than to be in a prison, I quite agree. I'm infinitely thankful that God did not create all of us to be robots. Without the freedom of our wills, that is surely what we would be.

More to come....

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I would say that Adam and Eve were free *before* they ate from the tree. They had the ability to choose to obey or disobey. They were able to exercise complete freedom living in the garden its just that up to the tree episode they had chosen obedience.

When they ate from the forbidden tree they were not choosing to be free (they already were) they were choosing to be autonomous, that is self-governing. Instead of letting God decide good and evil they wanted to decide for themselves. They doubted God's care or commands and decided for themselves what was good and evil.

After making this decision, they had to experience the consequences of exercising their God given freedom to choose disobedience.

HbdW said...

Hello Pete,
What you call freedom in Paradise, i.e. the choice to obey, makes me think of what Etienne de Laboétie called voluntary servitude. Is this freedom because it is voluntary? I would rather say that it is servitude, as La Boetie argued, as long as we do not choose the way of disobedience.
Or maybe we must see it in a different way: as long as the question whether to eat the apple or not did not arise, freedom was not a relevant word. Eve and Adam were in a kind of unvoluntary servitude from that point of view.
Only when Adam and Eve took the choice and ate the apple, the servitude ended and it was that what made them free. However, let us not play with words. Autonomous or free, what counts is what we can do.
Thank you for your thoughtful reaction.

Anonymous said...

Hello Henk,

Thanks for your reply. I understand what you are saying regarding voluntary servitude however by your reasoning are you not suggesting that unless people disobey they are not truly free? This is like saying only rebels are free.

HbdW said...

Hello Pete,
No, I mean that freedom/being free was a category that did not yet existiin Paradise. It had to be "invented" yet, which happened when Eve ate the apple. Compare it with the situation of a baby or a little child. It is dependent on the parents but can we say that a baby is free or not free? I think that the question is not relevant here yet. It was the same in Paradise, the babyhood of man.

Anonymous said...

Ah, now I understand what you are saying. Freedom did not exist because no situation had existed where freedom came into it. Only when they ate the forbidden fruit was there a situation that required them to exercise freedom or not.

Thanks for clarifying.