The crux of this write-up is to leave the reader with a thought that an idea of a free self is constrained by the idea of morality. The moral limits of a person are defined by the nature of actions of an individual and also sometimes, by the thoughts possessed in the mind which always carries with it a contingency that the particular thought to be converted into action. The philosophical question involved is whether morality as an idea is an inhibiting factor in achieving freedom or is it a liberating phenomenon. Morality and ethics, according to BF Skinner, is an outcome of the social environment and therefore humans cannot be said to be intrinsically moral creatures as we build a moral atmosphere rather than it being already in existence. The idea of freedom is then said to be restricted by moral actions and sometimes necessarily by one’s faulty thoughts. One of the finest example would be a student compelled to cheat in examination in order to free himself of the mandates imposed upon him by an organized educational structure.
To make the topic more clear let us pose a hypothetical situation. X and Y are walking through a dingy alley which is infamous and widely considered as the habitat of criminals and anti-social elements. X notices that a certain person is following them. He informs Y about the stalker and they decide to put up a fight against the stalker. X instructs Y to first confront the stranger following which X would act as a reinforcement, if needed, in order to enhance the chances of getting into a fight. The promise of protection as assured by X is merely a moral promise based on the bond or relationship shared by X and Y. As Y opposes the stranger, as agreed earlier, X decides to run away seeing the ferocious criminal’s knife (In order to exercise his freedom to live without any dangers, apprehension and fears). The moment X decided not to perform his part of moral obligation i.e., the second he realized that he should run away instead of saving Y as running away increased his chances of survival was the instant of ‘corruption’ of his moral self. This is however debatable. From the perspective of X it can be argued that the moral idea of friendship hampered his survival chances and it cannot be said to be incorrect for one to pursue the goal of self-preservation. Should the act of X be considered as immoral and does it delineate the moral limit of X? Did X do any moral wrong by saving himself out of imminent dread? At what point can we say that X ‘corrupted’ himself? This philosophical inquiry will help us realize the competing ideas of self-interest versus emotive bonding, moral regulation of oneself versus freedom and most importantly, moral obligations versus an innately corrupt self. I leave it to the reader to decide upon the answers to the questions posed above.