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What is Freedom, Really?


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What is freedom? What does it mean to truly be free? Is it possible to be truly free and still live by the mores of society? I argue that it is. There are those who will disagree with me. These people say that true freedom is a freedom from societal and personal responsibility. The common way of describing this is “being able to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it without having to take responsibility for my actions or deal with any consequences. "

Is this possible? Sociology tells us it is not. Even the most “primitive" of peoples has norms and values that dictate how individuals interact with each other. While these rules and norms might not be written down on a fancy piece of parchment (like the United States constitution), they are still how people work together and judge each other. Those who deviate from these norms are usually frowned at or, in extreme instances, ostracized.

So what is freedom? How do we define freedom in the western world? In the western world freedom is usually described as one's personal liberties-being able to think, feel and act without being forced to compromise who we are as individuals. In the United States, for example, we are not forced to follow a single religious doctrine. We are not forced to buy into a single school of political thought. We are not forced to live under the rule of a dictator. We do have to live within the boundaries of our city, state and federal laws and those are few and far between. While it might seem like there are many laws, the truth is that all of those individual bills address the microscopic issues associated with larger laws: do not harm, do not steal, take responsibility for your actions.

There is also a philosophy that talks about inner freedom. This would be a freedom of the mind. Being free, mentally means that one is able to reason and think logically and make decisions based on one's own morals-and have confidence in those decisions. This is something many of us struggle with. We understand that our choices are ultimately up to us, but in the end we find ourselves looking to others for validation or inspiration from outside sources. Exercising free will is harder than we think!

The truth is that everyone is free, but not everyone has the opportunities to exert that freedom. Outside influences dictate one's choices, but having a choice at all is freedom. Humans rarely act purely on instinct. Most of us take our mental freedom for granted, but the truth is that our ability to stop and make choices is what makes humans “civilized. " Whether one civilization agrees with the rules of another is an entirely different blog post.

This has been a long and rambling blog entry, but freedom is a large topic-both personally and philosophically. Before we decide which direction this site should take, we thought we would take a look at the problem of freedom as a larger issue.

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