On Freedom, Difference and Human Social Existence

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No. 2, 2022


On Freedom, Difference and Human Social Existence



Huang Yusheng


Freedom is not only a matter of theories and practice, but also an existential matter. In the field of practice, tolerance precedes freedom, but on an existential level, freedom not only forms the basis of difference, it also precedes tolerance. As a unique and compelling way of being, freedom means breaking away from necessity, from nature, from instinct and from the decisions of the past. Such freedom places us in an existential situation in which we can always start again; thus we become differentiated not only from others, but also from ourselves. At the same time, this means that we exists in an openness in which there are always other possibilities; on the one hand, this enables each free person to place things in a system of possible associations and to carry out purposeful activities, thus making possible the labor that is specific to man. On the other hand, it enables those who are free to empathize and place themselves in a variety of possibilities, being present to and substituting for one another, and thus understanding each other and demanding mutual understanding. It is precisely this mutual understanding that makes possible not only mutual recognition and trust, along with the social division of labor, but also the linguistic and generational differences that allow people to generate language and history. This means, fundamentally, that it is freedom that enables us to give birth to “society,” the community of autonomous interrelationships.