For centuries many people have insisted that obedience is a virtue and that disobedience is a vice. However, Erich Fromm, one of the twentieth century’s most distinguished writers and thinkers disagrees with this argument. He believes that the act of disobedience leads to freedom, the act of obedience is disobeying its own counterparts, and obedience towards anything else is submission.
First of all, Fromm says, “a person can become free through acts of disobedience by learning to say no to power.”(405) However, courage plays a major role in this argument; this only comes into affect after a person has emerged as a fully developed individual and has the abilities to think for himself. Only then can they have courage to disobey. In comparison, Fromm explains that there is another reason why it is so difficult to disobey. Throughout most of history obedience has been identified with virtue and disobedience with sin. Basically saying that obedience is good and disobedience is bad. But, there is a problem to that, not always being obedient is correct. Just because an authority figure gives orders does not necessarily mean it is the correct solution to the problem.
Second, Fromm states, “I do not mean to say that all disobedience is a virtue and all obedience is a vice.”(403) He’s saying that disobedience is a virtue some of the time and vice versa for obedience. However, disagreeing to that should become very difficult. For example, think of a situation where there was an order given, but it shouldn’t be followed through with. For instance, two teenagers plotting to steal valuables from a store and one tells the other to do something; should he go through it just because he was ordered to do so?
Last, “If a man can only obey and not disobey, he is a slave; if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel (not a revolutionary) . . .” (404) He also explains that heteronymous obedience is submission and that autonomous obedience is not an act of submission....