Toward strengthening democracies and civil society - Freedom as responsibility
Department of Humanities Nicolaus Copernicus University Torun, Poland
In the socio-political thought of both Habermas and Rorty we find reflections on the notion of freedom. They touch upon both how widely freedom should be understood and who is entitled to decide about using it in a given way. Consequently, their reflections integrate themselves with the discussion carried on by Isaiah Berlin in his essay Two Conceptions of Freedom. In my paper I present Rorty´s and Habermas´s critical approaches to the positive conception of freedom, in order to proceed to their subsequent specification of the negative conception which, in the context of their philosophy, may be called freedom as responsibility. Establishing such an understanding of freedom is crucial for appearance of deliberative democracy and for shaping philosophical basis of civil society.
Pragmatic philosophy of Rorty and Habermas is the one that presents a new understanding of the position of the individual in democratic society and allowes us to redifine our undesrtanding of the community and civil society. It allows us to broaden consciousness about our place in the societies or communities in which we live as well as our roles in them when achieving our individual happiness. The achievement of this happiness is of course dependent upon social conditions. This process can only occur when every individual has an equal chance for personal development and self-fulfillment and when appropriate changes have occurred in the political, legal and economic spheres as well in education. We should add that to support these processes we need certain reforms in the educational system, electoral system of many countries, health care, labour law and so on. The goal standing in front of us and democracies around the world is strenghtening civic participation, public deliberation and the development of civil society based on liberal values and on the notion of freedom as responsibility. Ultimately, all of this can lead us to the development of social solidarity, deepening understanding for human rights and strengthening democracies. Only then we will be able to demonstrate to non-democratic societies that they should join the democratic camp.