Flickering Imageryby Daniel R. Hirtler on 05/16/12
For the past couple of days, I have been forced to consider the issue of free-will and consent. It has been an issue that needs to be brought to consciousness, and I do address it personally at all times, but, at this time, seeing it from the outside; what amount of free-will do we need to afford others, and at what times is any individual able to consent to acts which affect them?
I am of the opinion that all persons should develop the skills to responsibly direct their own existence. I believe that that includes constructing one's own logic structure and reality to guide one's own existence (that means one's choices need not pass the judgement of any other person, nor of any society). I think it is one's responsibility to set one's own path onto the landscape which is the exterior world, with an understanding of the connections between intentions, acts and consequences. I also feel a strong conviction that one should do so without destroying the paths that others have constructed (to the best of one's abilities).
I think that one's right to act upon one's own will ends where one cannot demonstrate that one understands the objective connection between intentions, acts and consequences. At the same time, one's ability to consent legitimately, to the forces around one is called into question as the understanding of the connection between intention, acts and consequences fades.
I have held this point of view for quite some time, but the issue has been raised for me recently by my newly found perception that this point of view is not only not shared by the people around me, but actually might be entirely rejected by them.
I grew up with the idea that our American society demands a recognition of our affect on each other, and that our actions are constrained by that understanding. Further, I thought, to some degree, our regulation of each other through laws is the manifestation of that recognition. Evidently that never was true, or we have lost, or are losing that sense these days.
I am not referring to the libertarian tendency that seems to have become popular in political discussions, although such things are probably related. I am addressing the choices one makes as one gets old, when one ought to be acknowledging mortality.
I claim for myself (and everybody else) the right to conduct oneself through this existence all the way to death (from this existence) with independence. I do not accept that the society around me can decide whether I choose to try to live or try to die, as long as I make my attempt at life or death consistently with my stated intentions (or alone, if I choose not to reveal my intentions), and as long as I accept the consequences of the actions I take in attempting life or death.
I hear a couple of things that indicate that society may hold a view which simply cuts off our connection to one another. The first point is that one should be allowed to make any decision, without the judgement of others, no matter what logical inconsistencies were used in making that decision. The second point is that those around a person whose decisions are impaired by logical inconsistencies should remain silent out of respect for the individual's right to make mistakes (or conceal their intentions while in public). The third point is that there are only two proper methods of dealing with a person who is demonstrating a disconnect between intention and action; that is to enable, divert, or remove oneself from association with that person.
I do think there is a method of retaining control over one's existence while fitting oneself into the objective world around one (accepting that there is no true objectivity). One needs to have the conviction to defend one's choices and enough conviction to be able to speak of them without lying. Having enough self-respect to lay out one's reasoning, without the fear of having one's core intention questioned, would allow one's system of intentions, one's resulting actions, and the one's understanding of the following consequences to be the subject of outside judgement instead. This would establish healthy boundaries for any individual's ability to consent, and to act on their ow free will. That condition could mark the beginning point of consent (instead of age), and could be used to mark those times when society can take away such rights (insanity), and mark the point at the end of life when consent is no longer responsibly able to be given.
As long as society would restrict itself to evaluating internal consistency in defending the right to determine an individual's own course, the development of a consciousness of life's interdependencies would help all in the society help each other in each individuals attempt at life. Society has never been known to do that for long.