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April 10, 2017 / Congau

What Is Freedom?

Freedom is to do what you want. It couldn’t be simpler. Don’t add “as long as you respect others” or “as long as you are responsible” or as long as anything whatsoever. Freedom is what it is: The absence of any restraint.

The problem is not freedom; the problem is what we want. What do we really want? What is our true will?

We may be wrong about our desires. We have all sometimes wished for something, but then, when we got it, we realized that it was not what we actually wanted. Maybe we were deceived by our own imagination or manipulated by others or possibly both.

Our range of choices, though potentially vast, is made narrow by the monotony of our habits and expectations. The will is deformed by all sorts of constraints and then it is hardly possible to be free, is it?

What is freedom? It is to know what you want and then do it. How do you know what you want? By knowing yourself. That is an incredibly difficult task and it is made even more difficult by the social pressure of conformity. All human beings are unique and it is highly unlikely that your true self would fit any of those ready-made shapes you are offered.

However, there is such a thing as a common human psychology and certain patterns are true for all people. If we at least respected some general recommendations of mental health we could still achieve some freedom. But even that is neglected.

We do things to ourselves that are obviously not healthy; things that we can’t actually want. Often it is our very freedom that makes it possible to choose those things which we don’t really want. When we are free to do what we want, we do what we don’t want.

Then the whole initial definition seems to be distorted and it becomes: Freedom is to do what you don’t want. Of course that is nonsense, but it illustrates the dilemma. If people are given full freedom, they will do what is not good for them, that is, they choose what they don’t want so they choose not to be free. If they don’t have freedom, they may be led to do what they want and thereby be free even if they are not free. In any case they can’t be free. What then is freedom?

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