While I am a staunch partisan of the cuddle and its close companions, I am bound to say that I'm against the misappropriation of cuddling to disparage the Kantian ideal of freedom. And this - I kid you not - is what Giles Fraser today uses the cuddle to try to bring off. Successful folk, he maintains, are comfortable with the notion of self-determination, independence, individual authorship, responsibility and so forth, but they tend to downplay their own background origins in some or other community. Now look at this:
[I]t's a thrilling anything-is-possible existence when all is going well. But when the wind changes and the weather gets cold, you look left and right and find that you have no one to cuddle up to for warmth or solidarity [my italics]. In such circumstances, the Facebook existence, with its chosen "friends"[,] doesn't quite cut it as a nurturing community. The Kantian self is all very well for those who have high levels of material prosperity or deep resources of ingenuity. But even these are less sustaining [than] one often thinks. In adversity, one needs something stronger, deeper, longer-lasting than the isolated self that has detached itself from its background in order to be free.
From the mid 20th century onwards, freedom has become the west's dominant morality – freedom from fascism, free trade, free love, free speech. But when we seek freedom from the things that bind us together, then we are not free. We are lost.
First off, the idea that only rich or successful people care to be self-determining is a bit of an insult to everyone else; autonomy is a much-prized asset across the human species. Second, Fraser sets up a false antithesis: one can prize individual autonomy and human solidarity both. Naturally, that means they then need to be set in some kind of balance, but so do many other values without their being ruined by it. To put it another way, the autonomous self doesn't have to be the 'isolated self', and indeed I would say that healthy autonomy generally depends on integration within some supporting network of others. Third, 'freedom from the things that bind us together' is just a rhetorical trick; you can always tack on to a list of valued freedoms one that doesn't look so good. Thus: freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and - freedom from the protections of the rule of law; or freedom from adequate nourishment. Lost we would well and truly be if authentic moral and political freedom could be so easily discredited by the addition of a bad 'freedom'.
Remember: autonomous individuals are also free to cuddle.