Search for Personal Freedom

I’ve recently re-purchased my favorite textbooks from my undergraduate years: The Search for Personal Freedom, Volumes 1-2, by Neal M. Cross, Robert C. Lamm, and Leslie Dae Lindou. Re-reading them is simply pure joy and provides fresh insight and inspiration toward my lifelong love of integrated, inter-disciplinary thinking and ideas.

These are some indirect passages from the volumes’ prefaces that capture why I think any person who desires an intentional, non-fragmented life to the fullest would benefit from tracking these down:

* Components of the humanities–philosophy and the arts–are presented not as separate technical disciplines, but as interrelated manifestations of human creativity.
* The accomplishments of the past are living evidence of enduring responses to the perplexities of life
* Because artists naturally respond to the issues of their own time, each volume unit is prefaced by an overview of the social, scientific, religious, and philosophical climate of the period.
* If we would know ourselves at all, we must know some of the sources of our thought.
* Freedom is an active process, defined as the ability to accomplish one’s purposes and desires. A person is free who knows what he/she wants to do and why he/she wants to do it. And then, he/she must have enough skill and knowledge to go about the job of accomplishing such purposes with a minimum of frustration.
* Each emerging set of philosophies leads to institutions such as political, educational, religious, and economic systems. No one can answer which set of philosophies is the “right” one
* The authors’ “Culture-Epoch Theory”:
* All particular philosophies are based on the concept of the reality at the given time
* For a long period, this concept of reality is almost universally held, and upon it are built institutions. This is called a period of balance.
* Then, some intellectual giants see new ideas of reality, and their ideas catch on as institutions crumble and a period of chaos emerges.
* Eventually a new balance emerges, which will someday give rise to more change and more chaos.
* During the times of chaos, those who determine the ultimate human values are the artists such as writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, choreographers, filmmakers, and television producers. These persons are aware within themselves and within other people of the confusions and conflicts which upset human lives. The great artists such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Beethoven, and Bach are the ones who supply the final answers about our purposes in the world.
* The intellectual class reshape institutions into usable forms.
* Culture-Epochs in western civilization include the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Modernism, and Post-Modernism.
* The premise of these two volumes is that men and women, to have freedom, must exercise their powers of intellect and emotion toward the accomplishment of their purposes; that we have never known and probably do not now know the true nature of the world in which we live; that human institutions are the crystallizations of our ways of living at any given time; and that certain groups within a population are primarily responsible for change:
* The pure thinkers who give us our concepts of reality.
* The philosophers in each of the great areas of learning.
* The artists who perform a great and important function by revealing meanings for life in times of confusion and chaos.
* The intellectuals who build the institutions by which we regulate many of the affairs of our modern-day existence.