Philosopher Fabio Merlini questions the concept of freedom.
The recent past and the present, with their catastrophes (health and humanitarian); the climate crisis, with its radical questioning of the very meaning of the idea of civilisation and rationality, force us to radically rethink the value of freedom. We come from a history, Modernity, that established a granitic solidarity between individuality and freedom; a solidarity then reinvented in an anti-metaphysical way by the so-called Postmodernity, for subjectivities - so it was imagined - anarchic, light, decentralised, plural, flexible, open to an infinite game of identifications, ready to reinvent themselves when and where necessary. Contingency, decentralisation and provisionality were thus the emblems of a further liberation, beyond the work done in this respect by the 'modern revolution'. All this shows its inconsistent side today. Because the theme of limits, the theme of responsibility, demands that we go beyond the self-centred individualism with which we too often organise our action in the world, claiming a freedom that, in fact, is only a reflection of it. This need to go beyond binds the question of freedom to an ancient, yet still topical question: what does it mean to 'come to terms with oneself', and in what sense does this setting out mark a process of self-understanding that transforms the claims of freedom?
Fabio Merlini is president of the Eranos Foundation and regional director of the Swiss Italian branch of the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training.