chapter  2
34 Pages

Freedom Worth Wanting

Human societies are vessels to a bewildering patchwork of declarations: avouched similarities as well as declared differences, acknowledged or disavowed, brashly or quietly, urgently or reluctantly, about oneself or about others. We experience needs as well as demands to fit in and to belong, and accordingly proceed to associate and identify with relevant others. But we also experience antithetical needs to stand out from the crowd, to be set apart as special and good, eligible of emulation. Different societies foster, value and indulge these divergent needs to different extents, and applaud their fulfillments accordingly, as new generations of similarities and differences follow on the heels of old predecessors. Recent scholarship in social psychology aims to illuminate the social variations in such needs, how they are fostered and indulged, and how their cultural shaping results in culture-wide similarities-and conversely cross-cultural differences in behavior, motivation and, yes, cognition (Nisbett 2003; Markus and Conner 2014). These variations are the stuff of social science. And while the precise variations by social context are not the concern of this book, the higher-order principles and mechanisms by which rich patterns arise are very much to the point of it. Because the cultural variations, and the corresponding needs that generate them, give rise to the local shapes that Selves can take on, just as much as they provide materials for their construction, at the same time as they motivate and galvanize the selfconstructions that are performed in service of identities. Freedom plays an important role in these constructions. This chapter explores, in the spirit of philosophical anthropology, the differences between self-shaped and othershaped Selves, and the role that freedom or its absence plays in each, as it articulates the social mechanisms of their construction. In Chapters 7-9 we will then take the further step of embedding these mechanisms in the larger social setting.