Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Friday, April 07, 2006

Freedom: The Biblical and Western-Legal Views

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Commenter Sabba Hillel posted a very deep comment in reply to my earlier post on freedom's limits. He pointed out the difference between the Biblical consideration of freedoms, which associates them more with responsibilities, and the opinion of most Western legal codes, which associates freedom more closely with rights.
Sabba Hillel has been gracious enough to allow me to repost his comment here, which really ought to be read by everyone for its original insight. Even more impressive, Hillel was humble about it all, saying that the comment reflected the view of Orthodox Judaism, and in particular that of his own teachers.
Anyways, here's the comment.
There is a difference in perspective between (for example) the Bible and the curren United States view of freedom. Actually, I think that the founders view was closer to that of the Bible than the current one. The Bible regards peoples' actions from the viewpoint of responsibility. That is, we are responsible to not steal from our fellow man. Thus, the right to be secure in our possessions is implied. The current view is that everyone has a right to be secure in our property. Thus, the responsibility not to steal is implied.

While in many cases, the practical results may be the same, the basic principle is different. In the case of freedom of speech that you bring up, the parctical result is indeed different. The Bible (and the founders) view was that each person has a responsibility to speak properly and tell the truth. Each person also has the responsibility to not infringe on another person's legitimate opinions and ability to speak the truth.

That results in the limits on free speech that you discuss in your article. THe unlimited right to free speech that the current assumption leads to, on the other hand, implies a violation of that responsibility.

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