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What is freedom?

Everyone wants freedom, but we mean very different things when we use that word.

Is it freedom to be able to drink alcohol or is it freedom to not have the burden of being able to choose alcohol?

Does a government allow for the possibility of freedom at all or would we all have the freedoms of today taken away if there weren't any government?

well, infinite examples can be made.

What is freedom to you?

Just for fun:

  • Dec 20 2013: As I understand it, as humans we have freedom on three levels. Civic, moral and spiritual.

    Only on the last, highest, level do we have 100% freedom if mature and mentally healthy. I'm always amazed how some can maintain there is no such thing as freedom. I guess we have the freedom to do so :)

    I was on my IPad but did not have the knowledge (freedom?) how to copy and paste a link. So thought of doing that tomorrow on my computer. Then I took the freedom to turn the computer on and do it before going to bed.
    What would happen if we had no freedom?
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    Dec 18 2013: I think freedom is one enjoys his rights thoroughly and happily without violating other's legitimate rights, being physically and mentally relaxed and independent.
  • Jan 6 2014: The best definition of freedom I have seen came from a 1960s book by Harry Brown, "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World." (There was more about the book I disliked than liked, but the definition of freedom was a good one.)

    To Paraphrase -- You are free when:

    1. You recognize that you have a choice. [You always have choices, though you may not like the choices you can perceive that you have.]

    2. You can assess the choices available and for any one of them be able to reasonable predict what the worst consequences of the choice might be and what the best consequences. [too often we only look at one or the other.]

    3. You are willing to accept reasonable consequences of your choice no matter where they may fall between the worst and best. [Too often we look only at the extremes, and this prevents us from seeing choice as an ongoing process rather than an either/or event.]

    4. You make your choice consciously and purposefully.

    Within this definition it is always possible to be free -- Nelson Mandela was always a free man, even though incarcerated. Where there is an imbalance of power or resources, the available choices will be more limited, but we never have complete access to unlimited choices. We can choose freedom, and it is our responsibility to remain free on our own terms, rather than see our freedom as a gift from governments or other institutions.
  • Dec 22 2013: For most people freedom means Free to dominate.Freedom has an inbuilt mechanism to restrict freedom itself. To have an absolute freedom is an illusion.Suppose absolute freedom is given to each and every one , and after that everyone starts exercising his absolute freedom , then due to the inbuilt restrictive nature no body will have the freedom at all.

    While going to the office , I daily watch this scene when each and every vehicle owner wants to exercise his own freedom ultimately end up creating traffic jam and then everybody loses his freedom and gets stuck in the traffic Jam.
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    Dec 21 2013: Infinite freedom does not exist, so it's a question of degrees how much freedom one wants. However, freedom comes at a price. For example, imagine there were no police and everybody would be free to do whatever he wants. Don't you think that crime rates would sky rocket and overall security foes down the drain ?
    Here's another one: what about we'd get the freedom to decide whether or not we'd pay taxes. Probably most people would decide not to pay taxes. What happens then ? Obviously all that is paid for with taxes will start do degrade (infra structure, safety, health care,....).
    In other words, there is no free ride. Freedom comes at a price and the question is to what point everybody is willing to pay the price.
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    Dec 20 2013: just another word for nuthing left to lose....
    • Dec 25 2013: Joplin one of my all time favorite people, I can relate.
      What is this Earth day? Four of my favorite "down to earth people in a row", give um hell gentlemen.
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    Dec 20 2013: Infinite freedom would be tantamount to hell, just as much as no freedom would be hell.

    Man is happiest when he overcomes barriers in pursuit of goals.

    Needless to say he is unhappy when an overlord tells him what his goals are and putting endless barriers in front of him stopping him from reaching the goals. Of course the overlord has good intentions, which is what they line the road to perdition with.
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    Dec 18 2013: This is one topic I really can't wrap my mind around. I don't know whether drugs should be legal because people should have the freedom to do what they want with their minds and bodies, or whether drugs should be illegal because people are irrational and cannot be trusted to do what's best for them.
    I really don't know.

    Nobody thinks children should have access to guns and drugs on the grounds of their immaturity. But aren't many adults immature? Where do you draw the line?
    I'm very much attracted to pure freedom, pure liberalism as a concept. But I also believe humans are slaves to human nature and that, maybe, giving humans more freedom is giving more power to our inner tyrant.

    This is a fantastic discussion. I hope many contribute, and I expect to learn a lot.
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      Dec 20 2013: I too expect to learn a lot, and it's a really though one where we're bound to get a lot of different answers.
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    Dec 18 2013: Hi Jimmy,

    I think freedom is a synonym to chain. When we have freedom to choose anything we want to do, we are also responsible for whatever the result may caused by our actions, which no one wants. Thus, I think what we often face when we get freedom is that we are too afraid to act because we are responsible for all the failures and damages may caused by our actions. In this sense, freedom of our body is just a chain of our heart.
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      Dec 20 2013: It's very interesting as I see many people from china having this view. It's still somewhat of a cultural chock for me. ^^
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    Jan 13 2014: Freedom is a relational term and can have various implications depending on the context with which it is used. How often have we seen lately with the Arab spring how people fight for freedom only to be left in a worse situation than in which they started.

    The balance of good and bad freedoms in society is what has determine various memes that influenced philosophies from politics to law to religion for centuries. It has found expression in democracies, theocracies, autocracies and various structures being either controlling or liberal. They all claim to be bastions of freedom and claim to have their nations best interest at heart. The expressions are found in families as well, some are liberal while others are very patriarchal and conservative.

    In my view a good balance for a free society is created by a balanced personal accountability, peer accountability, governmental accountability, and global accountability. This is an perpetual pursuit for utopia and the pendulum swings from one perception to the other. It is a very heuristic system based on the changing ideas of various different leaders under the pressure of an ever changing world.

    While we have achieved various freedoms through ideas; they have entrapped us into a world that could very well be spiraling out of control. Cellphones made us free to communicate seamlessly and constantly, but it also upped the pace of life drastically. Through social media we are connecting to people constantly and with ease, but it has become easier to become more shallow and putting in less effort into our friendships. Technology, while bringing many great things, is killing our animals and forests through sucking up the planets limited resources.

    It isn't freedom we should pursue, we are already all free and all slaves to varying extents and contexts. We should rather pursue that which is wholesome, balanced and good for us as individuals, a society and a species, understanding we live in a broken and imperfect world.
  • Jan 6 2014: I don't guess I know what freedom is anymore. Freedom seems in my mind to be linked to independence but more and more independence seems to be a myth. What is independent in the physical universe. What is totally isolated? Freedom feels like a lonesome thought. We are all connected, interdependent, physically and socially, whether we can discern the tenuous threads or not.
  • Jan 6 2014: there will be no freedom if there are no equal rights on economy and energy.
  • Jan 4 2014: BitCoin is freedom, from the ashes rises the Phoenix. Viva BitCoin Viva!
  • Jan 4 2014: I believe freedom is the ability to make any decision and attempt to carry that decision out, without the objection and influence of others. Is this the case in our world today?
  • Dec 31 2013: Freedom to me is the ability of an individual to make choices so long as they do not infringe upon the freedom of others.

    The role of government is to make sure that infringement does not occur or punish those that do.
  • Dec 27 2013: the notion of freedom in the from of government is exacly that freedom from govening bodies for example you are free to vote for whomever you so chose without the govenment interfering in that chioce ( i am not refering to the chioce to vote just that decision you make for whom to vote for) the culmination of this acually means that if one had anarchy that would be true freedom because everyone would be free to do what they wanted to without the government interfering. the only problem is, what protects us from anarchists from taking that freedoms away from us by imposing a dictatorship? thus to avoid this the people create a pact with each other to inforce rules, to keep everyone safe from the dictator, thus they have now created a democratic governmet to keep out the dicator. ( as a side note. using this theory one can explian crime. when examining a criminal for exmaple a theif, under the old system of anarchy this was proper, as one could do whatever they like to do including stealing, but now that the goverment has stepped in and stopped they from doing they can no longer steal, but they have not stopped because they have conformed to socity but instead because "big brother is watching" so at the first second "big brother" isnt watching the theif is stealing once agian.) so what i like to think of as freedom is any set of rules that apply to everyone including the ruling class provided that there is a process in which the public can alter thies rule for any reason whatsoever a system of this kind is what i belive is the proper harness for freedoms.
  • Dec 25 2013: Freedom is a stay of execution.
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      Dec 26 2013: Or the negotiations through an accepted ideology.

      The conditions and parameters set by the state external and the internal state of the individual in terms of obligation to the social community.
      • Dec 27 2013: Well said Johnny, are those your own words, if so twas quite profound.
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          Dec 27 2013: oh yeah...but I also been in a thoughtful process about the level of tolerated injustice that exisits in society, or it could be that I increased my vitamin C intake :)

          I just think the issue should be discussed versus discarded.

  • Dec 23 2013: Are we certain that neurons fire indeterminately? We cannot be certain that these components and quantum particles are not governed by laws, we can only say that we haven't discovered the laws. Freedom is to be without influence, and absolute freedom is impossible in a world that we do not control. We have no freedom from natural law in reality, and can only have degrees of freedom to choose or to act. Both freedom from restriction from alcohol and freedom from temptation are freedoms, the preferable freedom can only be determined through personal experience. People can not be free to drink, and be free from the influences of drinking people at the same place and time. Most freedoms require the restriction of another freedom. Freedom to keep a clean environment requires that you restrict the freedom to pollute. The freedoms granted by good health require you to restrict your freedom to eat poorly and live a sedative life.... "Freedom isn't free" That is, we MUST do certain things to be free. -- Are we free at all, if we MUST do anything?
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    Dec 23 2013: My take on it is that Freedom is where FEAR is not.
    Meaning Freedom is the ability to speak the TRUTH.
    Not profanities and endless arguments or insults.
    What is TRUTH, might you ask?
    Certainly not what this world will try and make you believe.
    You must find that out for yourself.
    Be a Light unto yourself. Not follow like sheep.
    You will know it when you are completely and absolutely Honest with yourself and others.
    Then, from there you can speak, from the Heart, or the Truth.

    But it needs to be said, TRUTH benefits no one, but lies do.
    Truth benefits only in relation to SANITY. Not your bank account.
    And most people would like to benefit one way or another.
    But mostly, TRUTH benefits ALL.
    Means we do not get divided by lies.
    Truth cannot divide, but Lies can.
    Truth serves all Humanity, but Lies serve the few.

    Until we all learn to speak the Truth, there will be no Freedom because there will be no Strength and Unity.
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    Dec 21 2013: I don't know , freedom is freedom . We know we have a little of it as well as we know when we have much more of it , there isn't absolute freedom for us .
  • Dec 21 2013: Contrary to what most people think, freedom is not about doing what we want when we want it. Freedom is the ability of choosing without external human influence. However there is a catch... well... actually 4 that people tend to overlook... and that's why for some "freedom" seems to be a blurry concept, but it is not. First, you must realize first that one thing is to have the right to be free and another very different to be really free... just picture this 4 cases:

    1) You have the right to be free but you are unable to get food... are you really free? obviously not. So, freedom without food is just a word in the dictionary.

    2) You have the right to be free but you are an ignorant... are you free? of course not, because if you are presented with a set of options, being an ignorant, how could you tell you are not being manipulated to choose something against your own interest. So, freedom without knowledge is just a fantasy.

    3) You have the right to be free, but you don't have a self imposed discipline... are you free?... the answer is no, because without a self imposed discipline you are prone to favor decisions towards getting immediate pleasure over those oriented towards your long term well being... like alcohol or drug abuse. So, freedom without a self imposed discipline is self destruction.

    4) You have the right to be free, but you are not accountable before the law... are you free? again no, if no one of us was accountable for our doings, anyone could steal, kill or rape without any consequence, and the whole civilization would crumble faster than I say it. So, freedom without responsibility is debauchery.

    In conclusion: Freedom is not about doing what we want when we want it. Freedom is not and can not be absolute, it is a limited asset we must cherish, and we must be aware, we might believe we are free and actually not being.
  • Dec 19 2013: I can think of several ways to think of freedom
    At one level freedom is what a coyote has but fire and a machine do not have
    At the societal level freedom is relative to the number of choices an individual has.
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    Dec 18 2013: At the most basic level freedom is the quantum indeterminacy of firing of neurons. After much refinement, it is an obligation to act responsibly. I wish to add a subtext to your question: Are we free to give up freedom?
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      Dec 20 2013: Deep, and scientifically valid!

      And you give a though a question Pabitra "Are we free to give up freedom?"... It would seem like it according to Mingkun as he describes freedom as a chain...