Freedom from Reality
The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty
496 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268102623 | August 2019
Hardcover | 9780268102616 | December 2017
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268102647 | December 2017
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268102630 | December 2017
It is commonly observed that behind many of the political and cultural issues that we face today there are impoverished conceptions of freedom, which, according to D. C. Schindler, we have inherited from the classical liberal tradition without a sufficient awareness of its implications. Freedom from Reality presents a critique of the deceptive and ultimately self-subverting character of the modern notion of freedom, retrieving an alternative view through a new interpretation of the ancient tradition. While many have critiqued the inadequacy of identifying freedom with arbitrary choice, this book seeks to penetrate to the metaphysical roots of the modern conception by going back, through an etymological study, to the original sense of freedom.
Schindler begins by uncovering a contradiction in John Locke’s seminal account of human freedom. Rather than dismissing it as a mere “academic” problem, Schindler takes this contradiction as a key to understanding the strange paradoxes that abound in the contemporary values and institutions founded on the modern notion of liberty: the very mechanisms that intend to protect modern freedom render it empty and ineffectual. In this respect, modern liberty is “diabolical”—a word that means, at its roots, that which “drives apart” and so subverts. This is contrasted with the “symbolical” (a “joining-together”), which, he suggests, most basically characterizes the premodern sense of reality. This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.
D. C. Schindler is professor of metaphysics and anthropology at the John Paul II Institute, Washington, DC. He is the author of a number of books, including The Catholicity of Reason.
"This is a brilliant, incredibly erudite, and rigorously argued book. D. C. Schindler's fundamental contribution is the working out of autonomy described as the flight from reality. Nobody has defended this account of the trajectory of modern liberalism more ably than he has. It is a huge and complete accomplishment by one of the most magnificent thinkers of our time." —Peter Lawler, Dana Professor in Government, Berry College
"D. C. Schindler is probably the best Catholic philosophical theologian of his generation in the Anglophone world. In short, this book is an account and diagnosis of the rise of a modern concept of 'liberty' . . . and of an alternative vision drawn from classical and Christian tradition. It makes a better and more controlled case than any other book I know of dealing with these issues, and opens new perspectives on Locke and whole heritage of modern moral and political history." —David Bentley Hart, Templeton Fellow, Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study
"Among the sacred cows of the modern age, a certain idea of individual freedom and political liberty has pride of place. D. C. Schindler unravels its genealogy in John Locke, exposes its self-defeating character, and pleads for a retrieval of a fuller conception, rooted in classical Greek philosophy. He thereby contributes to the healing of our intellectual, cultural, and social diseases. A daring and necessary enterprise." —Rémi Brague, University of Paris–Sorbonne and Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
"Schindler’s book is a brilliant tour de force of political and moral reasoning. A most timely and stringent analysis of modernity’s confused and calamitous dissociation of freedom and the good, Schindler’s book will be ranked with similarly intentioned, highly influential works by Polanyi, MacIntyre, and Gadamer." —Thomas Pfau, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English and professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, Duke University
"As a critique of deep currents of modern thought, Schindler’s masterful study does just what it should: it brings us into a position to understand and assess divergences at the level of fundamental principles, and to recognize their consequences. His lucid explication of 'the diabolical'—the mimicry of truth that plunges us ever deeper into unreality—sheds much-needed light into the abyss of inescapable contradictions Locke bequeathed to liberal society in his revolutionary re-conception of liberty and the will. Schindler is one of the best guides available to a revivified classical philosophy that restores the soul and reality to the communion they were made for." —Mark Shiffman, Villanova University
"This book critiques modernity’s prioritization of the concept of freedom over the good in philosophical thought. Schindler . . . argues that modernity delinks the good from freedom and substitutes the latter for the former. Paradoxically, this substitution leads to contradictions and even to fragmentation of society. As a solution, the author proposes a return to the classical conception of the good central to the thought of Plato and Aristotle. There, the good is symbolic—from the Greek sym-ballò meaning 'to join together'—whereas the modern is diabolical, from the Greek dia-ballò meaning 'to divide.' . . . the scholarship is superb." —Choice
“Many decades ago, Scottish-born philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre published After Virtue, a spirited defense of traditional virtue-based ethics. It was an enormously important book and has had a major influence in the area of modern moral philosophy. Schindler’s book is [of] similar significance.” —News Weekly
"I thank Schindler for this backfiring book that left me overwhelmed by Locke’s brilliance." —National Review
"Freedom from Reality belongs in a certain upper echelon of contemporary philosophical works, sitting on a bookshelf somewhere between After Virtue and Modernity in Crisis. . . . [I]n helping us to remember our place within the larger symbolic order of reality, the book makes itself a symbol of that same order. It contains the very wisdom that it expresses." —Public Discourse
“Truth be told, David C. Schindler has made a signal contribution to our understanding of Locke.” —Law & Liberty
“This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.” —Law and Religion Forum
“D.C. Schindler’s Freedom from Reality provides both an assessment and a path forward, and with great dexterity. . . . Schindler has done a great service in pointing the way forward and thinking about how we can fruitfully recover the best of the classical tradition and present it to the modern world.” —New Oxford Review
"Schindler’s study of the contrast between classical and modern freedom is a fascinating and much needed account to understand our predicament and our possible futures. . . . Whether we chose a 'symbolic' or a 'diabolical' account of freedom in our political, cultural, and economic life is yet to be determined. Reading Freedom from Reality will help us make this choice." —VoeglinView
"A sophisticated and penetrating study of modern liberty, comparable to Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue or George Grant’s English-Speaking Justice." —Reading Religion