A person is inherently free, even though constrained by conditions. In other words, whatever the conditions may be, a person always has freedom in how to respond to them.
Such responsiveness may, however, require courage as involving risk and for this reason may be denied.
People do not necessarily recognise their own freedom, nor that of others.
In fact, these two aspects - self and other - are mutually dependent. One realises one's own freedom insofar as one realises that of others, whether they themselves do so or not.
However, there is also an unfree aspect to the individual. One cannot freely decide to become a different body or have a different history, for instance. This is also true of others. A person is a mix of freedom and unfreedom.
Realism, therefore, demands some recognition of both aspects. Self and other are both free agents and both passive objects.
Compassion is fellow-feeling for this dual nature of the other.
Life thus tends to take the form of an alternating current, in which one is alternately active and passive, yin and yang, leader and follower, acted upon and actor.
Liberation of the self involves recognising this in the other. There is no liberated self separate from such recognition.
Liberation is invitation to a dance in which partners alternately lead and follow.
From this perspective, ethical thought, feeling and action, are defined as those that fully recognise, protect and promote the dual nature of the other. Such acts are implicitly and inherently self-liberating. This means living up to the challenge of liberating the other, yet also to that of carrying the other in his or her unfree aspect.
The liberated self is not, therefore, necessarily self-conscious nor conscious of its own liberation except as an inherent potentiality of all sentient beings, because the liberated self is not particularly self-focussed and liberation does not depend upon self-consciousness.
Ethical action is thus action that enables others to be free while also acknowledging their unfree dimensions. We could call this making room for others to be what they are, whether they recognise their own nature and the nature of others or not. It also means accepting that one is oneself carried by others as well as liberated by them.
People frequently implicitly deny their own freedom by seeking to deny it to others and deny their own unfreedom by refusing to accept that of others.
However, since the liberation of others depends upon their arriving at a recognition of the freedom and unfreedom of yet others, liberating others is a more subtle and complex matter than mere laissez-faire. Laissez-faire might, in effect, amount to implicit collusion in the exploitation of yet others whose freedom goes unrecognised and is in no way enhanced and whose unfreedoms are not taken into account nor allowed for.
This does not reduce to the greatest utility of the greatest number since utility rests substantially upon the exploitation of the unfreedoms of third parties. This, therefore, is an ethic that does not have a materialist foundation.
A moral actor is one who acts in ways intended to enhance the freedom and take full account of the unfreedom of others, given that that freedom is only complete when it manifests as recognition of the freedoms of yet others and of their limitations. Liberation is, therefore, a life of liberating others to liberate yet others and caring for others that they may care for yet others.