June 24, 2010

More on "Freedom."

I obviously have this problem with excess verbiage.

"Freedom" is a word, ladies and gentlemen. Each and every word conveys a specific and unadulterated meaning before it is rent asunder by our "uncontrollable emotionality" as Ambrose has so aptly put it. So, here's a definition of "freedom" that I've come up with that I hope embodies the polar opposite of our insatiable lust:

"Freedom in man is the ability to perform any action whatsoever that does not prohibit the action of another."

Allow me to advertise that I want to perfect this definition in one way or another and would like to hear criticism of it.

Hear me out, though: assume that I am free to do whatever I want. No, a step further: everyone is free to do I whatever they want. So, since I'm free to do whatever I want and that is my assumed definition of freedom, I shall hypothetically rob a bank at gunpoint, produce seven casualties and run off with $13 million dollars. Enjoying freedom, yet? Now, by my assumed definition of "freedom," everyone can do whatever they want. However, I prevented anyone from making any move by holding them at gunpoint while in the bank, restricted and depleted the funds of a number of people, and ended the mortal lives of seven others, all while enjoying my own good freedom.

As extreme as this example is, it illustrates a point. If everyone has a right (yes, "right" is new, just assume it from the beginning!) to their freedom, have I not just thoroughly restricted those rights? Isn't freedom self-defeating if, in doing what I want, others do not do what they want?

American freedom: the type of freedom exhibited in the United States of America where some people with a lot of money and power get to do whatever they want, and everyone else does what they say.

Joke...that's a joke. The sarcastic inspecificity will break the sides and abdominals off any and all readers. [end disclaimer]

So, I have established what freedom isn't. That being, "everyone does whatever they want" because this definition is self-contradictory. Note the extremes in that sentence, though. So, there are some alternate versions that must be true (all following true syllogistical form, for those paying attention):

Some people do whatever they want.
Everyone does some of what they want.
No people do nothing they want.

Brain dump completely. Possibly more later.


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Blogger Ambrose said...

You made a very simple (but valid) point. You said, in that entire post, only one thing - that if freedom means "I do whatever I want" and if what I want contradicts what someone else wants, we have a problem. However, you took a lot of time saying it. I think you'd be a much better writer if you would say what you mean simply.

The definition that you posted at the beginning of the post, but did not complete, is interesting, though. You took that flawed definition, "freedom is doing whatever you want," and gave it a qualifier - "only if it does not inhibit that freedom for another person." This adapts the complete freedom of choice definition to a world where more than one person exists.

However, I don't think this is the right answer. Your definition results in something incomplete. "You may do somethings, and a great many things," your definition says, "but not these things, since these things keep other people from doing those things." Your definition of freedom comes with a tag-along prohibition, which seems self-contradictory. Giving someone liberty to do and at the same time taking away liberty to do doesn't make much sense. This definition of freedom is not very free at all.

Freedom must be something tangible and positive, not prohibitive. Suppose I say that freedom has an intended direction. All people ought to be free to act in accordance with their own human nature, a nature which applies to all men, extrinsic of the person. Let me explain further. Man is meant to be with God. Any action which leads him to God is within the bounds of his nature, but any action which leads him away from God is outside these bounds, and therefore unnatural. If an act is unnatural, it actually does damage to his person, and results in the inhibition of his own ability to act at all. Freedom, then, means acting in accordance with your nature.

July 06, 2010 12:11 AM  
Blogger Sam Ignes said...

No, that's not the point I made. That's what you gathered from it. Forget not who said it and who heard it.

Duly note my goal there was to define "freedom" in a fashion that applies unprovokingly to all people. It is not my goal to form this definition with anything other than a logical direction in mind. Not to mention you've incorporated a host of new terms to be debated and discussed while my meager definition is based upon well-understood terms.

Ultimately, though, if put to thought this definition of "freedom" is either parallel or coincides "morality." This is because not only actions that interact with others, but actions performed alone or self-inflicting actions can be self-destructive which thereby inhibits interaction with societal bodies, and so on and so forth. Any action which inhibits any other action is not an expression of freedom, but an inhibition of someone else's freedom. That's the main idear (to quote Richard Dawkins XD).

So, without using the words "morality," "good," or "evil," I have succeeded to some degree in defining morality.

Also, when I write I'm usually thinking while I'm writing, as thoroughly opposed to simply putting a thought on paper. This leads to self-argumentation and frivolous ambiguity, of course, but also more developed thought in some (if not all) cases...even if I'm the only person who understands it.

Also, you kept trying to put my definition into other terms. This is a rather illicit action on your part, since the terms I used were explicit in their meaning. Your simplified version and/or mental versions didn't make the cut, and there's even more possibility my own written (as opposed to mental) version didn't quite suffice, either.

Why does freedom have to be tangible or positive? It's already been established that the form "all people can perform all actions" is not true, so what form would fit your idea of "positive" or "unrestrictive?" Morality is utterly situationally subjective, in that it conforms to the situation (not vice versa). So, PERFECTLY conforming with morality, there is one and only one choice of action for any situation. Of course nobody's perfect in such a sense, therefore both a restrictive and [insert antonym of restrictive here] can function equally well in order to discern the correct course of action. That, though, is a whole other discussion. ;) Trying to fit all that in just this one tiny paragraph can hardy do full justice.

So, yeah, don't simplify or restrict my definition; just change the terms slightly in order to come to a better understanding of the idea formed by it.


July 09, 2010 1:41 PM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

I don't think you get what I'm trying to say. Freedom must mean "freedom to do something." It cannot mean "freedom to do some things but not some other things." The "but not some other things" does not belong in the definition of the word - simply because liberty means those things which we can do. "We are free to do this" is fine, but to say "we are not free to inhibit the actions of others" in the definition of freedom is unnecessary.

Why does freedom have to be positive? Because freedom is a gift - it is that which distinguishes us from and sets us above the animals, along with reason. If it sets us above, it must either be something bad they have which we don't, or something good we have which they don't. Since freedom clearly is not a bad thing, it must be the latter. Therefore, if it is something good which sets us above, it must be something we can do, not a set of restrictions attached to a "you can do everything else." The "everything else," if you think about it, is far more important than the things you can't do, and it is this more important field of moral goods, which we can, should, and indeed must to do, with which the definition of freedom ought to deal. Therefore, to say that man's freedom is his "ability to act in accordance with his nature" is the best definition of freedom.

Since you seem to be calling "nature" an unknown term (although it has been used in this same sense since Socrates), I'll quote Aristotle. "All things have a nature, and flourish only in accordance with that nature," or, conversely, "The nature of a thing is the set of conditions under which it flourishes." Tomatoes grow better with water than with acid, mice function better with cheese than with bricks, and humans operate better when they act morally good as opposed to morally bad.

So when you say "Ultimately, though, if put to thought this definition of "freedom" is either parallel or coincides "morality." This is because not only actions that interact with others, but actions performed alone or self-inflicting actions can be self-destructive which thereby inhibits interaction with societal bodies, and so on and so forth. Any action which inhibits any other action is not an expression of freedom, but an inhibition of someone else's freedom." you are basically equating not inhibiting others actions with morality, and since morality is part of our nature, it makes more sense to say "ability to act in accordance with our nature" than "ability to act without prohibiting the action of another."


July 12, 2010 4:27 PM  

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