This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

For the sake of free will and not against it

Physical compulsion and restraint—for example, locking someone up in prison for a reasonable sentence—is justified insofar as it is conducive to the spiritual education of the individual. Prison can be justified in this sense because if properly managed and if situated withing a system of authentic justice, this kind of restraint not only protects others from the acts of the prisoner, but also gives them space and time to reach a moment of clarity and to be rehabilitated. It removes their liberty because liberty is conditional and may simply permit someone to self-destruct. Prison can provide an opportunity for moral education—perhaps long overdue—to take place.

In this case it cannot be said that the free will of the offender is being denied. It is quite the opposite: the fact that someone could commit rape or murder or some other soul-destroying crime demonstrates that they do not have a will that is truly free and that their situation cries for help, even if they themselves do not explicitly ask for it. Most people who lack strength of will to stop themselves from doing horrible things will also lack the strength of will required to admit defeat and to beg for help. Social restraints that provide space for moral development are also going to result in the strengthening of a will in the hope that it will, eventually, be able to operate with sufficient ‘freedom’ to avoid being further enslaved by addiction, passion, and other weaknesses of character once the restraints are removed.

Needless to say, this excludes all forms of compulsion that do not respect the spiritual integrity of the person but instead undermine it or deny it: depraved conditions, torture, withholding food or sleep or contact with loved ones. Ignorance of the possibilities of rehabilitation and the nature of human needs. All of these have no place because they undermine strength of will and are more likely to nourish spite and hatred. Inhuman methods break the will of an individual that is already on the brink, at which point things become hopeless.

Lastly, it is necessary at times that inducement produce suffering, sometimes in the extreme, and this does not imply violence or abuse. When an addict loses access to drugs, the result is not only physically painful, but also mentally excruciating. We point this out to say that when sentimentalists try to argue that any physical compulsion or mental coercion that produces pain is, for that reason, abusive, we can say once again that this is too general a statement to be true.

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