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Absolute freedom-do we have it??

Updated on May 21, 2013

What is absolute freedom

Absolute freedom is the ability or freedom to make a choice and act on it completely detached from the input, control or otherwise influence of external forces such as society, people etc. But are we actually free in this world and have we got the right to do everything based on our choices??

Arguments and Analysis

There is a view called existentialism. Existentialists say that existence precedes essence. It means that first of all, man exists, turns up in this world and, only afterwards, defines himself. Man is only what he wills himself to be after his thrust towards existence. Thus, there is no human nature which provides us with an external source of determination and value.

If existence really does precede essence, then things cannot be explained by reference to a fixed and given human nature. In other words, there is no determinism, man is free, and man has freedom. Nothing outside of us can determine what we are and what we are good for; we must do it ourselves, from the inside.

One existentialist philosopher Sartre defines freedom by comparing the type of freedom we have to that of an artist. An artist cannot control the nature of the canvas, nor of the paints that she has to work with. Nor can she control the nature of the subjects she will paint. But she can control how she will view them, how she will put these various elements together into a unique whole.

Sartre says likewise, we may not be able to control the various elements within our experience that come from outside, but we can view them and combine them in any way we like. Our experience is not any one of these; it is the way in which we combine these into a unified whole. But the concept defined by Sartre has its restrictions as some of the things are predefined as in the case of the artist, she has no control over the nature of the paints or canvas. Thus it is prejudice to conclude that the artist has absolute freedom when she cannot control several factors.

Similarly in our lives, we do not have absolute freedom as we do not have absolute control over anything. The day we were born to the day we die, most things are predetermined for us. For instance we cannot help where we were born, what type of body we have and what type of abilities our brain has disposed us towards.

Most of our external circumstances are determined by forces beyond our control. Also we do not have the freedom of what kind of a person we will be. We are all playing roles, identifying ourselves, or seeing ourselves, in terms of how other people see us, letting other people determine what we are, instead of deciding ourselves, what we will or want to be.

We all, to some extent, tend to make ourselves into the image other people have of us. We are a different person with our friends than with our parents. We are a different person with a lover than with our acquaintances, and we are different still when we are in the classroom or at a job interview. We see our value in terms of the acceptance we get from other people.

We all have ideas of ourselves projected by other people and we often tend to try to make ourselves fit into those ideas by playing roles. We play as college students out for a good time, as sons or daughters, as businesswomen, policemen, scientists. We play as students taking notes, and professors giving lectures. We play the roles; we make ourselves into characters in the plays, the script of which is determined by the expectations of other people.

Further to the above argument we have laws in place to keep everyone safe, but yet we are still "free". But in reality are we really? If the law puts limitations on what I can or cannot do, then am I really free? Are we even free to think what we want? We cannot even decide what we wear, the fashion or the colours we wear, are defined by the fashion or the textile experts, we just go to the shopping malls and purchase them and say “I chose this colour” but indeed we have not. We are just in the illusion that we choose for ourselves but in real other people decide for us.

The major religions in the world, all have the concept of God. In particular, Islam preaches us that we have to live our life in a particular way and for which the Benevolent Being God who has created us, has revealed books and sent prophets for our guidance. The Books and the Prophets have told us some rules to abide by in order to have a good hereafter. If one follows them one will go to heaven and if one does not then he/she will end up in hell. So do we have a choice here to live our life the way we want??

Also Buddhism preaches that if one does not control their desires of life, power and pleasure, one will not be able to achieve nirvana and if desires are not controlled then a person will be born 8.4 million times. So does a person have a choice of not controlling his/her desires??

Likewise, in his book Natural Law and Calvinist Political Theory, L. S. Koetsier has pointed out that John Locke says that absolute freedom does not exist. “God is supreme over everything and has such authority and power over us which we cannot exercise over ourselves.” He concluded that, after all, “we owe our body, soul and life, to Him and to Him alone. God has created us out of nothing and, if He pleases will reduce us to nothing.” With these statements Locke emphasized the sovereignty of God in order to deny the existence of absolute freedom.

My personal view

Absolute freedom, I believe is to fulfil your desires without any limits, but as our desires are always influenced by external forces or reasons, so absolute freedom should be a place where influence is non-existent which is a paradox itself as if there is no influence there would be no desires. Even if I am left on an island with no one around I am still not free of my needs which include eating, it is not possible that I do not feel hungry for eternity.

So in conclusion, I believe absolute freedom for a human being is unattainable. If we are to be completely realistic we can never escape the control and influence of external forces. What we can do is demand certain level of freedom.

Just because we cannot create an absolutely free existence to ourselves, that does not mean we have to exist within constricting bonds. We have the right to ask for certain level of freedom which includes freedom of speech, expression, religion. We cannot refute the claim that we have freedom but modify it to state “We possess limited amount of Freedom”. Stephen Covey quotes on freedom, Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”

Do we have absolute freedom ??

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    • cheek0o profile image

      cheek0o 5 years ago from UAE

      thanku hecate-horus for commenting and voting it up.

      do you think that we have absolute freedom??

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 5 years ago from Rowland Woods

      A very deep thinking hub...voted up