What Is Freedom, And How Can We Define It?

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How magnificent is it to question? To freely philosophise and wonder about our beautiful existence and all that life is, that is exactly what we enjoy doing here at Aristotle’s Cafe. But what exactly is freedom? How can we define it?
Without contraints, attempted to question freedom in our most recent discussion, and although tricky to invest our minds into, we were still happy to be free to do so.

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“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 acknowledge 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 favourite snack or watch your favourite 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. So if you are lured by attraction, such as the desire to buy the latest Iphone, hidden under the possible illusory feeling of freedom to purchase it, you may not necessarily be free. What about educating ourselves on freedom? As brought up in our discussion, we proposed the thought that educating our children on freedom seems quite paradoxical.

Paradox of Freedom

Modern teaching methods imply the need to use force to educated our children. This method clearly contradicts our definition of what freedom means. By attempting to educate someone on freedom, and what it is, we tend to at the same time force knowledge into their minds which an act of control in itself. However, it’s hard to deal with this fine line, we need some force to educate someone, right?

"The nature of education, is the paradox of freedom"

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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?

It is arguable that not knowing something means that you are automatically more free. Someone in the group discussion said, “At least in relation to your own conscience you are, such as not knowing where your clothes come from, technology, food (implying slavery), you will feel more free to continue buying such products. You cannot undo what you have learned.” We are loving beings, naturally compassionate to one another, so if you are aware of a particular situation in which you find wrong, you may feel more inclined to limit your impact concerning the situation, thus limiting your freedom. 

As an example, many people who have spent time educating themselves on the current conditions of the meat industry, have decided no longer to participate in purchasing and consuming meat. It is possible that they have taken their freedom away as their darkness of ignorance has been illuminated by their flame of knowledge. However, on the contrary, it is also plausible that they have freed themselves from their unhealthy habits and control imposed by their culture, therefore acquiring more freedom than those who have not.

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, 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

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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. For example, 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.

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 and exist in such a way that love tends to work well in relation to being free.

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