Hegel’s assertion that one cannot find true freedom or fulfillment outside of the life of the community is one with which I agree for several reasons. Our fundamental notions of freedom and fulfillment are shaped by the community. Moreover, the community shapes our efforts to achieve freedom and fulfillment, as well as senses us signals when we have achieved it.
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Further, the community continues to influence our concepts of freedom and fulfillment long after we have achieved them.
Our very understanding of freedom and fulfillment stem from our interactions with the community. We learn the definitions of the words and school, and we experience them as we navigate the world. Inherently, these concepts are born of a shared understanding, whether a collective societal understanding or a more local one, shared by an individual and their immediate peer group. Even for individuals for whom society is oppressive, the effective resistance is a collective action: in this case, a small group shapes an individual’s notion of the ideal, while the greater community influences the individual’s sense of the intolerable, within the context of freedom and fulfillment.
The community presents the individual with obstacles and challenges to overcome that lead to freedom and fulfillment. Consider the concept of the American Dream, as defined by homeownership and a secure retirement. The average American will face some level of financial crisis at some point during their lives that will threaten to prevent them from freeing themselves from the constraints of the proverbial rat race. Components of this Dream are also less correlated with freedom than with fulfillment, such as marriage and children. Again, societal challenges will present themselves that threaten an individual’s efforts to achieve both.
Moreover, fulfillment (as well as freedom) is less a single defining moment than a continuum of experiences after a certain self-defined event. One may find freedom or fulfillment long before retirement, with the achievement of a certain raise, or the birth of a child. However, maintaining that freedom and fulfillment require continued interactions with the community to some extent. A financial crisis could wipe out even the affluent individual, while untreated mental illness can erode a person’s sense of fulfillment. Even for individuals who assert that both of these concepts are strictly internal,
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