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May 8, 2017 / Congau

Freedom and Real Freedom

Real freedom should never be restricted. Vulgar freedom needs restriction. Real freedom is doing what you really want. Vulgar freedom is doing what you think you want.

Who is to say which is which? You don’t know yourself and other people are in no better position to know you. Yet there is often a difference between what we really want and what we think we want.

No one wants to hurt oneself and we all want what is best for ourselves. Still we often do what is unhealthy and act contrary to our best interests. So if there was a way to know in advance what is to our disadvantage, it would be meaningful to say that our actions could be restricted while still keeping our full freedom.

Well, there is no way to know anything with absolute certainty, but we do have clues as to what reality looks like. We can be quite sure that the Earth is round and that certain things are rather likely to cause damage. If someone insists on playing with explosives or jumping out of windows thinking they can fly, more sober minds may rightfully be able to correct their illusions and stop them from carrying out their intentions. In that case freedom is not really restricted for we assume that such madness is not what a person actually wants.

Now, once we allow for such a qualified interpretation of what it means to want something, this principle can be extended even to less obvious cases of illusion. We should not be allowed to do what we want when what we want is not what we want. Then it also makes sense to say that we can be forced to be free.

The practical problem is of course that no one is objectively placed to prove anything. No government can prove a superior knowledge of the real wants and needs of its citizens. But then neither can the citizens themselves.

Freedom, real freedom, remains an elusive quantity. It can’t be proved, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The only thing we can say for sure is that when there is an agreement between what a person seems to want and what he would have wanted if he had possessed all relevant knowledge, his action should not be restricted.

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