Throughout our lives, many of us are presented with difficulties and experiences that shape who we are and what we believe in. Eventually, these characteristics solidify, becoming the guiding force in our decision making. Many may argue that this conditioning to a certain behavior takes away the freedom of choice; all decisions are a direct cause of our habituation. This assumption is false; every choice we make with regard to the characteristics we take upon ourselves, or rather personal virtues, is a free choice. We choose our responses to stimuli, and eventually this habituation allows us to act within a set of bounds conforming to our identity and gives us even greater freedom by ...view middle of the document...
“The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.” (Nicomachean Ethics) This security and preservation of internal character permits the individual to be free of anxiety and gives a certain determination to their choices. By understanding the framework of virtues that shape their choices, one can understand the freedom of their choices.
Confucius said, “At fifteen I set my heart upon learning.
At thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground.
At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities.
At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven.
At sixty, I heard them with docile ear.
At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right.” (Analects of Confucius)
By learning what virtues mattered to him, and how to complete the internal change in accordance with those virtues, eventually Confucius was able to act free from indecision, temptation, and desire. This freedom only comes from habituation to virtues and acting in accordance with them. This constancy and freedom give an individual true happiness. “Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously.” (Analects of Confucius).
Some may argue that fate removes any possibility of freedom, and that this conditioning is simply an acceptance of fate. For example, in the Aeneid, Aeneas is constantly reminded that his destiny is to found Rome and Italy; he has little choice in the matter....