What is freedom?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘freedom’?
Shackles breaking open? Birds flying high up in the sky? Freedom fighters? Rights in a democracy? Marrying someone of your choice? Making a career out of something you love? Travelling around the world? Being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do and how you want to do?
According to the dictionary, freedom is defined as the power to act, speak, or think as one wants. While this may hold true in the broader sense, if we look at it intrinsically, freedom is quite subjective. What is freedom to you, may not be freedom to me. For someone whose voice has always been suppressed, the right to express individual opinion maybe freedom. While for someone trapped in the rat race, being able to pursue their hobby or take a long relaxing vacation maybe freedom. We all have our own definitions, extents and limitations to what we believe to be ‘free will’.
But what is free will?
Do we really have free will? How many of our choices and decisions are controlled by external factors like social institutions (society), religion, moral beliefs and inner systems like neurochemistry and biological determinism?
If all of your decisions are based on how you were raised and the chemicals flowing through your brain, there are any choices really free?
If I am not truly free to make my own decisions or choose my own actions, then how can I be held accountable for them?
– Crash Course Philosophy
Everybody wants to be free. The desire to be free, ironically, has been controlling us for ages. From struggling to become independent countries a few decades ago to fighting for liberal rights now, the pursuit of attaining freedom fails to cease.
Yet, we do not truly know the nature and reality of freedom. What we believe to be free will might just be an illusion. Maybe what we have been striving for since time immemorial is completely unattainable. It is undeniably true that none of us can really define the extent of freedom we have. Various schools of thought have been in a constant conflict with each other without really reaching a fruitful conclusion regarding the definition and extent of freedom.
The biggest one of these conflicts is determinism vs free will. While some philosophers believe and try to prove the existence of determinism, others preach free will.
Let us take a look at both of these theories to help us decide for ourselves what to believe in.
Determinism is the philosophical theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do.
Free will is the idea that we are able to have some choice in how we act and assumes that we are free to choose our behaviour, i.e., we are self-determined. (libertarian free will).
Determinism is a belief in the inevitability of causation. Everything that happens is the only possible thing that could happen. The chains and networks of causes are so powerful and inexorable that every outcome is inevitable. We are already locked in to everything else that is going to happen in the entire future of the universe. If you knew all the causal principles and had enough information about the present, you could predict the future with 100% accuracy.
– Psychology Today
To take a simple example, when two chemicals react there is no sense in imagining that they could behave in any other way than the way they do. However when two people come together they could agree, fall out, come to a compromise, start a fight and so on.
There are important implications for taking either side in this debate. Deterministic explanations for behavior reduce individual responsibility. A person arrested for a violent attack for example might plead that they were not responsible for their behavior – it was due to their upbringing, a bang on the head they received earlier in life, recent relationship stresses, or a psychiatric problem. In other words, their behavior was determined.
The term soft determinism is often used to describe this position, whereby people do have a choice, but their behavior is always subject to some form of biological or environmental pressure.
– Simply Psychology
What do you believe in? What is the truth? Are we really free?
Compatibilism : Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are mutually compatible and that it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics.
Man is “free” to choose that which is determined by his nature or by the laws of nature. To illustrate, the laws of nature prohibit man from being able to fly, but this does not mean that man is not free. The agent, man, is only free to do that which his nature or the laws of nature allow him to do.
– Got Questions
Asking ” am I free?” is really the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking,” how much control do I have?” and the more control we have, the more responsibility we have.
While you may not be able to control your sneeze, you can control where to sneeze.
We can learn to control our impulses or urges upto a certain extent. For example, when we were kids,we used to pee whenever our bladder was full irrespective of the appropriateness of place and time. But as we grow up, we develop more control over our natural impulses and can decide when to hold the urges back and when to indulge. This can be seen when we try to break a bad habit or ingrain a good one.
– Crash Course Philosophy
Life is a combination of destiny and free will. Rain is destiny but whether you get wet or not is free will.
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.
– Jean-Paul Sartre
Note : I am not an expert nor do I hold any formal degree in this subject. I am just an inquisitive soul trying to figure out the secrets of the universe. My beliefs are not ‘the ultimate truth’ and are subject to change as and when conflicting arguements win over my current interpretation. Feel free to join me as I connect the dots hoping to understand the complete picture.
Leave your opinions, beliefs, experiences regarding this topic below.
Thank You 🙂
– The Luna