A Creative Thought Experiment In Freedom
Before jumping into a discussion on freedom, it is important to take some time to look at words themselves. Meaning gets all jumbled up in peoples mind because of the fact that when a person hears a word, they don’t hear its meaning. Like some popular optical illusions, it can be very hard to see past what you think you see and get the hidden picture. Words are like that in the sense of being an emotional optical illusion. Hidden under the instinct of emotion is the meaning.
Freedom then in the modern world is a gut emotional reaction. It hardly ever crosses the mind of any people to take a look at whether they understand what it means or not. It’s fair to say that people everywhere care a whole lot about freedom; the opposite of which is slavery. Suggesting to someone that they don’t even know what this thing they care about even is, would be like smacking a toddlers ice-cream to the ground. Beyond the emotions of gut reactions however is something much better; realization.
Now knowing that it’s not an emotion, we can look more at what freedom really is. To do this let’s use some imagination and make a character, but not just any character, one with unlimited freedom. Time, space, physical form, even moral action are out the window. A god-like entity that can rape, murder, and pillage anything in this world and dimension or any other. As well as heal, teach, and invent, could be some other capacities of unlimited freedom. So, something odd happens here, this thing, whatever it is, comes with implications. First, there are other things to interact with, it’s not just fluff in a void. Second, there are other beings, ones who don’t have such powers. Third, there is some sort of intent or desire; not much of an idea of freedom if it does nothing with it. Overall then you could say freedom is having a desire and the power to act on or manifest it. This does however hit a conflict; the others.
If unlimited freedom was extended to every being there would be no limit to what could be created, destroyed, or desired. Ideally, with every being having unlimited freedom they would all create a life they enjoy and leave every other being alone. They would explore interests and desires freely… obviously. Now, these others, they could with their freedom destroy the creations of the first, again intent plays a key role. How can you be a being of freedom if some other being of the same level of freedom can destroy or take your freedom? The short answer is you can’t and if their were no other beings, it would be just fluff in a void.
This difference in power can be a limit on the freedom of others. If you can do anything, then even desires of control and violence could be manifested. The alternative would be that the being with infinite freedom just wants to hurt itself, again the implication of some kind of desire and the existence of others. The infinite freedom of others could be used to stop the attack, and restore freedom. The intent of this hypothetical being does seem to run into the same issue in every act of freedom; the intent of the desire and the others. Freedom, it seems is not intent or desire, is it something else?
Perhaps the simple ability to take an action, let’s say knowledge and skill are freedom. We see desire alone is not freedom. Freedom can be unlimited, and yet the lack of know how and skills can completely prevent manifesting a desire. This lack however would be a limit on freedom, so with the magic wand let’s remove it. Now any desire can be created and again we have to return to the intent and others issue. This time with knowledge and skill we could simply out perform the others, even without limiting their freedom. Any being can access knowledge and develop skill. This seems pretty close to what freedom is. Again however knowledge and skill are not themselves freedom.
By this point we are beyond emotion, a void, desire, knowledge and skill, and have recognized others. The thought experiment of some being with limitless freedom has helped narrow the range of freedom’s definition. The recurring theme of matter and others gives us maybe not a total definition but a workable one. Freedom is the ability to explore desires and build knowledge and skill in any given reality as long as the desires of others are not imposed on. As our understanding of freedom expands so too will our ability to manifest more of our interests and desires, along side increased knowledge and skill to build a truly free world.