History Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What does Sun Yat-Sen mean by the quote, "An individual should not have too much freedom. A Nation should have absolute freedom"?

Expert Answers info

Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write1,138 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Sun is speaking about the power of the government and essentially is reiterating the idea of the Social Contract by John Locke. The basis of both of these ideas is that humans, on their own, are flawed individuals who will turn to anarchy and violence if left without guidance. An individual should not be so free as to give in to their base desires, because they will tear themselves and society apart.

The nation, however, has been given power from the people and should therefore have the freedom to do as it pleases because it is the entity that governs behavior and makes decisions in the best interest of the people. Without freedom, the nation would be unable to care for the needs of its inhabitants, whereas the individual would tend towards self-destruction.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

What Sun means here is that the freedom that people have should be subordinated to the needs of the country.  He is saying that Western ideas about freedom put too much emphasis on people's ability to do what they want and not enough emphasis on the need of the society to be able to maintain its stability and coherence.

Sun talked about the idea that Chinese were like "loose sand" when they thought of freedom.  They took it to mean that people should be able to do whatever they wanted.  But Sun argued that there was the need for the state to have the power to force people to act in ways that would benefit the country as whole.

Sun argues that

Liberty, to put it simply, means the freedom to move about as one wishes within an organized group.

This shows what he means in the quote you have given.  He means that individuals should have freedom, but that it should be limited.  It should be limited by the boundaries that the state (the "organized group") puts on it.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial