The Age of Enlightenment was the age of reason. The rise of reason over tradition in the past 200 years led to the empowerment of the individual and the belief in technological and social progress.
Reason, according to the Oxford Dictionary, refers to the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgements logically.
The concept of reason has two implications.
The first is that the individual HAS the ability to think, understand and form judgements logically. The second is that the individual SHOULD think, understand and form judgements logically.
Therefore, human freedom is NOT that we can do whatever we want. Rather, it is our ability to act according to reason. To act according to reason and reason alone affirms our autonomy, and thus our freedom.
But what is to act according to reason? It is essentially to act sensibly and rationally. To act nonsensibly or irrationally is to act against reason.
We can formulate a moral law: you should act sensibly and rationally.
Therefore, it is right to act sensibly and rationally and it is wrong to act nonsensibly or irrationally.
But how do you apply this moral law?
Let’s look at an example that happened in Shanghai.
Let’s say someone was abused by one police office or some police officers. He became angry at the police. He got into a police station and killed six police officers. He was convicted for the murders and executed.
You somehow consider him a hero.
I think you are wrong to think that. It is not reasonable that you think that. It is in fact nonsensible and irrational to think that.
I would reason this way.
After he was abused by a police officer, he should have reported the abuse to the police officer’s boss or a disciplinary board. The superior officer or the board either took up his case or didn’t.
If the boss or the board took up the case and resolved the complaint to his favor, then he should be satisfied with the outcome.
If the boss or the board didn’t take up his case or came down partially, he could still report the case to the boss’s boss.
If the boss’s boss didn’t care either, he might try something else, like the media, the Internet, etc…
But killing six unrelated police officers were nonsensible and irrational because they did not commit the abuse. Even if he could assume many or most police officers were corrupt, it was still nonreasonable to assume that six somehow deserved their fate.
Therefore he acted nonsensibly and irrationally. He was wrong. It was right convict him for his crimes.
Now you consider him a hero. It is nonsensible and irrational for you to think that. It is not sensible and rational to stand with the criminal rather than with the victims. Yes, the six killed police officers are victims. Their families are victims as well.
If you resent these six police officers just because some other police officers committed abuse, then you are unreasonable. Therefore, you are wrong.
If you know you are wrong and insist on it, you are not acting freely. Rather you are acting against reason.
If everyone acts like that, then we will lose our freedom because when everyone acts nonsensibly or irrationally, our freedom cannot be safeguarded.