Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Live Free or Don’t

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Back in 2010, the Wikipedia entry for double bind contained this text, which has since been edited out:

  • “You must be free!”
    Freedom is the ability to be spontaneous and do whatever you want; to be told that you must do this means that you are conforming to a commandment ordering you to express a state of freedom.
    (An extreme example of this is the New Hampshire state slogan, “Live Free Or Die”, which also veers into the realm of Hobson’s choice).

I had seen the New Hampshire motto on license plates since I was a kid. I had never thought of it as a double bind. What’s going on here?

The key is that “Live Free or Die” is a motto: a statement in the first person of how one wants to live. I am saying that I intend to live free or die.

However, if you interpret it as an imperative command — “You live free or die” — then you do get the aspects of a double bind that the writer cites.

I can’t help with the assertion that it approaches a Hobson’s choice. I can’t understand that claim at all, unless both living free and dying are negative outcomes.

It had never occurred to me to interpret “Live free or die” as an injunction to a second person. It shows how far apart different people can get with the same statement when they have different starting points. It also illustrates how an idea can be interpreted in ways that one might not expect.




Written by srojak

September 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Ethics, Politics

Tagged with ,

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