diogenes allen-paradox of freedom and authority

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  • 8/13/2019 Diogenes Allen-paradox of Freedom and Authority


    "The principles and dynamics of the master-slave relation . . . can be used to study the marriage relation, the relation between teacher and pupil parent and child, employer and employees, pastor and parishioners, counselor and client, and also the relation between Jesus and his disciples, between Jesus and his Father, and between God and us. "



    THE RELATION of dominance and subser

    vience among humans raises a perplexingquestion. How can anyone be free when

    someone else is in authority? Is it possible to beone's own person when another person stands aboveand over us? Can a child mature if parentsconstantly make demands of obedience? Willstudents learn personal identity if teachers assignprescribed requirements? Can a checker at the

    supermarket be somebody if the manager is supervising everything and everyone?

    At the core of the Christian life is the fact thatChristians have a Lord, someone to whom theybelong and to whom they are obedient. How can webe free if we have a master? How can a person befree if there is someone to obey?

    Sartre claimed that the two notions contradicteach other. To be a human being is to be free, to be

    responsible, to be autonomous. So the very idea ofGod reduces us to slaves and is essentially anti-human.

    We do not need to endorse Sartre's claim torecognize the resentment we would feel at having aboss, a ruler, or anyone else telling us what to do allthe time. How would that be human fulfillment?How could that be self-fulfillment? How could thatbe happiness? The Christian gospel claims that thespiritual life is to be one of fullness of life andblessedness. How can that develop from a relationship to one who has unquestionable authority over

    Diogenes Allen is Profes sor of Philosophy at Prince-ion Theological Seminary.

    He is the author of Leibniz'Theodicy (1966), The Reasonableness of Faith (1968),Fi di O F th (1975)

  • 8/13/2019 Diogenes Allen-paradox of Freedom and Authority


    Theology Today

    I will deal with this question by starting with Hegel's analysis of therelationship between master and slave in his Phenomenology, in whichhe exhibits the principles that govern that relationship. After we havedescribed these principles, we will see if they are present in Christianity.

    We will do this by looking at the Gospel accounts of Jesus to see if he isportrayed as the kind of master we find in the Phenomenology. Does hedestroy the disciples' freedom or not? We will then apply our findings tothe question of our subordination to God.

    ILet us start with the bare structure of the relation between a master

    and a slave in Hegel. Here a person regards another as a subordinate.Not only are they not on the same plane, but they are not the same type

    of entity. One is a subject; the other is literally an object. The slave is tofulfill the master's will; so the slave is like an extension of the master'sbody, which moves and acts at his whim and command.

    Hegel is concerned to characterize the self-consciousness that isoperating in the master-slave relationship. To appreciate this we need tolook at the plan of his book. He operates with the idea that consciousness exists and develops in stages, containing various layers and contradictions. His Phenomenology is a sort of biography of the growth of amind or consciousness, similar to a Bildungsroman, a genre of novel

    concerned with the educative development of the main character. Themaster-slave is but one small section describing the development ofconsciousness. Hegel begins at the level of sense-experience, wherethere is a subject aware of objects. There is a dualism of knower andknown. They are alien or opposed to one another. This opposition isovercome when consciousness comes to the insight that the object is notcompletely separate from the subject, but has an affinity to theperceiver; for when the object is perceived, it is now the perceiver'sobject. It is not just "object," but "his object." So dualism is overcome

    by duality, a duality of (a) a subject and (b) the object of a subject'sperception. The object is known or incorporated into oneself as one'sobject.

    Hegel then notes a dualism within the self. Not only are we a subjectaware of external objects, but we as a self are both subject and object;for we make ourselves the object of our own consciousness. So we haveself as subject; self as object; and this dualism is overcome by a kind ofidentity of subject and object whereby what I am is a self, aware of anobject that is myself. The object is me as my object. We have a kind ofidentity in which there is a duality. We have a single subject-objectthat awareness or consciousness exists.

    Now we come to the master-slave relation. This is a stage where we

  • 8/13/2019 Diogenes Allen-paradox of Freedom and Authority


    The Paradox of Freedom and Authority

    to have recognition of one's reality as a subject at a higher level than (a)the perceiver of objects and (b) the perceiver of oneself as a subject-object, one must have something else respond to one's reality. And one'sreality must be recognized in a specific way. It is to have something else

    respond to one's will, to do what one commands. In this way a personcomes to a higher level of self-recognition or self-realization.Now a person can do that vis--vis nature; a person can seek to

    command nature. But a person can do this also in relation to otherpeople, because other people are indeed objects. Unlike nature, however, they have a duality of being swo/ec-objects. So a person can get adifferent kind of response from people. When a person subordinatesanother as an object of their will, they get a recognition from another oftheir subjectivity because the other is an entity capable of recognizing aperson. This allows a person to come to consciousness of being a self in anew way.

    This introduces a situation of conflict because each can have theirunique self recognized and hence realized only if their will is obeyed.Each can come to self-realization only at the expense of the other.

    IIOne resolution of the conflict is the master-slave relationship. One

    person dominates and dominates the other completely. From the point

    of view of one of the persons, this is the optimum resolution; for thatperson's will is obeyed and hence their self is recognized and realized.The more a person can subordinate others to their will, the more theuniqueness of their self is asserted. One enhances one's self-consciousness as a subject the more one can render the other as object of one'swill. But the master-slave resolution is an unstable one. The veryexistence of another subject merely as a subject threatens one's ownsubjectivity, one's uniqueness. So one must seek to efface the other as asubject. One way to do this is by making the product of their work oreffort one's own possession. That denies their subjectivity, denies theiressential likeness to oneself. It overcomes their otherness. The other ismade mine because the other's labor is at my command and the productofthat labor is my possession. So the master presses dominance for all itis worth, asking to be glorified and paid homage in order to cancel outthe otherness of anything else, and thereby to preserve absoluteindependence. The master maintains independence or freedom byplacing others in subordination.

    But there is an irony in the situation. Masters cannot be trulyindependent or free. To assert independence, mastery, they must havesomething that is not themselves. They must have something to paythem deference, something to subordinate. They have status as masters

  • 8/13/2019 Diogenes Allen-paradox of Freedom and Authority


    Theology Today

    be recognized and in that recognition to come to realization as a specifickind of subject implies the existence of other subjects. The existence ofother subjects, however, gives lie to their uniqueness as the only one oftheir kind. The very uniqueness of consciousness realized in masterhood

    is dependent on a condition which contradicts its truth and thus makesthe master-slave relation an unstable one.Masters try to keep this truth hidden, to suppress it, by making their

    control more and more arbitrary, so there is no recourse beyond theirwill as to how they treat slaves. The more arbitrary their control, thestronger the slave's dependence, and hence the greater the master'ssense of independence. But clearly it is self-defeating; for this consciousness of independence requires the existence of something to subordinateand something that can recognize the master's dominance.

    IllThe slave's dependence is not one-sided either; it also contains its

    opposite, independence. Slaves by their work become more aware oftheir own reality. They produce the goods they are ordered to, but theythereby develop skills. They become aware that the masters depend ontheir work. Masters lack their skill and hence rely on theirs for theproducts of life.

    Each now must think of self in a contradictory way. Each has somepower over the other and each is dependent on the other. But there isthis difference. Slaves are in constant fear and danger of masters whohave power of life and death over them. But they have a growingconfidence because masters depend on their work, and a growing senseof their worth because of their skill. Masters grow in anxiety. They needslaves and grow to need their labor more and more. When slaves becomeconscious of the difference between their dependent self and theirindependent self, between what is subordinate and what is free, themaster-slave relationship is psychologically br