9. Freedom and being good

Lesson powerpoint here


  • For pupils to give consideration to how free human beings really are when it comes to making moral decisions.
  • To examine case studies of different degrees of freedom and think about the role freedom plays in morality.
  1. What is freedom?
  • Ask pupils whether they think that human beings are free or not. Can we just say and do whatever our heart desires? Perhaps place them along a ‘values line’ in the classroom and ask them to defend their position on it.
  • Liberty vs. Licence: liberty is the freedom to do what is right and good; licence is the freedom to do whatever you want. It is the difference between selfishly pursuing our desires and freely choosing what is good/virtuous.
  • Show pupils the slide with different ‘freedoms’ on it: which of them might be termed liberties, which of them licence?
  • If we are not free, what are the different elements that restrict our freedom? (Fear of others’ opinion of us; fear of punishment; genetic predispositions to behave in particular ways; feeling the need to play a particular role (what Sartre called ‘bad faith’); rules and laws; avoiding doing harm to others/having a conscience).
  1. The London Riots: Freedom?
  • Play students the clip from The Riots in Their Words.
  • Ask them if the individuals who are speaking are free. Would they consider themselves to be free? Is this a kind of freedom we would like to endorse in our society? Does the difference between liberty and licence help to explain this?
  1. Richard Roper: Freedom?
  • Play pupils the clip from The Night Manager where Richard Roper explains his vision of freedom.
  • What does he see as a restriction of his freedom? Does extreme wealth and power bring him freedom? Is his freedom the kind of freedom we would want to endorse in society?
  1. Andy Dufresne: Freedom?
  • Play the clip from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Red (Morgan Freeman’s character) claims to have felt free when he heard the music. Is that possible? Is it possible to be free in some way, despite the obvious constraints of something like a prison? Does Dufresne represent something we can all aspire to? Are we like Dufresne’s fellow prisoners in some way: believing we are not free, when in fact we are?
  1. Back to liberty vs. licence.
  • Thinking about the 3 different case studies (riots, Roper, Dufresne), which do pupils think is free in terms of licence and who is free in terms of liberty?
  • What is the relationship between living an ethical/moral life and liberty/licence? Can somebody be considered truly free if they limit/restrict their desires in order to be a good person?