What Is Freedom, And How Can We Define It?
What does freedom mean to you?
Does it mean time freedom, the ability to choose what you want to do without worrying?
Maybe financial freedom, and the ability to not worry about money?
Or is more about the freedom of speech and the ability to think, wonder…
And also complain about the world around you.
These are the types of questions we regularly ask at Aristotle’s Cafe. But what exactly is freedom? How can we define it?
With an expert Facilitator guiding the discussion, we attempted to question freedom in our most recent session. Although it might have been a challenge with such a diverse crowd of strangers, we were all happy to be free to do so.
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
― Virginia Woolf
What Is Freedom?
One of our Aristotle’s Cafe members defined basic freedom as “…when you do not feel any constraints.” Whether those would be physical, mental or emotional constraints.
However, we acknowledged that feeling free and being free can be two different things…
We wondered if feeling free may not necessarily mean that you are free, for example, are you free if you feel obliged to help someone? Or are you truly free when you feel those urges to eat your favorite snack or watch your favorite show? When you are free to choose topics to talk about?
Being free may mean that you have full control of yourself, meaning your mind, body, and emotions.
Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said it quite beautifully in a speech that there are these four freedoms:
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way
- Freedom of want – meaning that economic stability can be achieved.
- Freedom of fear – meaning that you aren’t in physical danger or fearing for your life or the life of those who you love.
With that in mind, are you free?
Free to express, worship, live in a stable and peaceful way?
These are tough to answer for many of us because no matter where you’re born it’s difficult to actually feel complete on all of these elements. We started thinking about a solution that would make this achievable for most people on earth.
It sounds great right?
But then again there could be consequences…
"The nature of education, is the paradox of freedom"
Is Total Freedom Good?
We seem to live in a world where freedom is alive because of a certain level of control. Historically and in the present day, it takes a very short time to find examples of slavery.
You would have a big challenge to find someone that enjoys being a slave – yet is it possible for everyone in the entire world to be completely free?
Stripped naked of our daily constraints, such as the need to pay bills, meet a deadline or be in a particular location.
It seems doubtful that once in that state we could actually appreciate it. Everything is relative, and soon enough people might feel the pressure of another constraint.
As always, we seem to find more questions than answers…
Such is life in Aristotle’s Cafe.
Is Ignorance Freedom?
One of the many opinions that came up when we asked people “What does freedom mean to you?”
Was time freedom.
It’s pretty straight forward – time freedom is the ability to choose what you want to do with your time. It’s doing what you love doing most now, not later.
It might mean focusing more on personal well-being and happiness, or it might mean doing all the crazy things you always wanted to do.
The one main rule is that if you truly value and put importance on time freedom you’d never say, “I’m too busy to do that” or “I don’t have enough time to do that.”
It’s about being free and spontaneous to make choices as they come.
The largest challenge to enjoying life in this way is something we all laughed about. You might have a lot of time, but you won’t have a lot of money.
Of course, there are rare individuals and outliers when it comes to this, but for the most part, people trade their time and working hours for money. And that’s the way the majority of the world survives.
This would mean that only a few people would be able to truly enjoy time freedom, and it might have to do with their knowledge.
That idea lead us to another interesting question…
Has Society Contributed To Your Freedom?
We discovered that for some it has. One person in the group said, “All of my freedom comes from society. If I were stripped of what other people do for me, there’d be nothing left.”
Therefore, on the one hand, certain societies can provide someone with freedom. It can give someone choices, multiple directions, time freedom, freedom to acquire knowledge, jobs, and experience someone else’s views, opinions and so forth.
Society can be useful for providing freedom to the majority, by applying some constraints…
We can help provide freedom to people in need. By working together under some set rules and laws.
On the other hand, society can rob you of your desires, thoughts, dreams, so that if you wish to dress in a particular fashion that goes against societies standards and ideals, you may be ridiculed, bullied, insulted and no longer feel free to dress in such a way.
Society may lead you astray from discovering who you are and being whom you wish to be.
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
– ― Ralph Ellison
Lack of Freedom As Motivation
We brought up the idea that being in a place where control and limitations thrive can also be a powerful motivation.
It is known that humans can turn negative situations into positive outcomes, many successful people have proved it. We can use the lack of freedom that many of us feel in certain areas of life, as motivation to push us further, higher so that in the future we can achieve goals we never thought possible.
However, to say that is is a necessity to have, contradicts accomplishments achieved by people who were free.
Many professional athletes have the freedom to choose what they do with their lives, yet they continue to push themselves freely to reach their desires and goals. So often, for some reason, many of us feel motivated to achieve what we do not have.
What does Freedom Mean to You?
There is no one that can answer this question for you. In fact, what freedom means to you is really the reason for this entire conversation.
Yes – YOU!
What does freedom mean to you? Write your answer in the comment section below and let us know your thoughts.
What does freedom mean to you? Because we all have our own perspectives and beliefs, but the important thing is to start to shape and form your ideas and communicate them effectively.
As the world continues to become more and more global borders are starting to blur, economies are intertwined, and individuals with completely different cultures are living side by side.
Unless we find mutual respect and understanding there won’t be any freedom for anyone because there will always be that back and forth struggle. The push and pull of cultures clashing with limited resources.
So what does freedom mean to you?
If everything were to be provided freely for us, and we had the freedom to do as we please, what exactly would you do?
Where would you go? Would your life dramatically change for the better? Or for the worse?
Freedom is something that most people find pride in, to be grateful for. It allows us to think, do, live as we please.
Comment in the section below and tell us what freedom means to you, because that is really the most important element to this entire conversation.