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What Does Freedom Mean To You?

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We all have an idea about what freedom is and we all argue about it.  I think most people inherit some form of freedom and then spend the greater part of their lives trying to improve it for themselves and others.  So I am curious, at this point in your lives, what freedom means to you.

To get the ball rolling, and to offer some examples of the kind of statements I'm looking for, I've selected the following quotes from various sources...

"What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion." ~ Freedom, ARL

"I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do." ~ Robert A. Heinlein

"Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~ Malcom X

"True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought." ~ Pope John Paul II

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you" ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

"There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free." ~ Walter Cronkite
--
Definition of FREEDOM ~ Merriam-Webster
1 :  the quality or state of being free: as
a :  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
b :  liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another :  independence
c :  the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care>
d :  ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom>
e :  the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom>
f :  improper familiarity
g :  boldness of conception or execution
h :  unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home>
2
a :  a political right
b :  franchise, privilege

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Freedom is choice. In that we do not live in isolation, our ability to choose relies on relationships. Entering into relationships by choice requires an understanding and fulfillment of the terms of agreement of one's choices. If one enters a marriage voluntarily, one must understand the terms. If one enters employment, one must understand the terms. If one forms a friendship, sells a product, or signs a contract, one must understand the terms, and comply with them. If one did not enter the relationship voluntarily, or misrepresentation and fraud were concealed at the time of consent, one must assume the right to nullify or negate those terms, and be free to choose again.

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@ Repairman - Does complying with the terms of a relationship represent a loss of freedom, or perhaps an exchange of freedom, or something else?

 

@ David Salkin - Do you remain faultless if your freedom of action without regret impacts others negatively?

 

Mahatma Gandhi said, "Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err."  Does this agree with your view of freedom?

 

 

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@ Repairman - Does complying with the terms of a relationship represent a loss of freedom, or perhaps an exchange of freedom, or something else?

Complying with terms of an agreement may involve compensating the other party in the form of an exchange of money, goods, services, or in the case of love, a unique form of devotion to the other. In any event, the ultimate outcome should be a mutually satisfactory one arrived at voluntarily.

To directly answer your question, there should be no loss of freedom, although sometimes the relationships and agreements we enter into come with risks, and those risk can cost one all or a part of one's freedom. Other times, there can be great gains. That's why we call them: risks. But basically, freedom is choices.

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Mahatma Gandhi said, "Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err."  Does this agree with your view of freedom?

Yes, of course... as long as we understand we're talking about the freedom to do all sorts of irrational things that do not infringe on the rights of others. Philosophically, man needs freedom so that he can exercise his best -- and hopefully his rational -- judgement. However, if you want to know whether a society grants men that freedom, you should start by listing things that many people in that society would find immoral and irrational, and ask if they allow people to do those things. The reason is simple: societies will obviously allow people to do things that those societies hold to be moral and reasonable. So, that's no test at all.

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@ softwareNerd - The pursuit of knowledge contains risks, doesn't it?  Sometimes those risks negatively impact other lives, who presumably have the right not to be impeded by other individuals' freedom to pursue knowledge.  Does this create a kind of paradox, or is there some way to account for the apparent aggression induced by having the freedom to pursue knowledge?

 

@ Nicky - Is freedom, and all the rights associated with it, delimited to the practice of the non-aggression principle?

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@ softwareNerd - The pursuit of knowledge contains risks, doesn't it?  Sometimes those risks negatively impact other lives, who presumably have the right not to be impeded by other individuals' freedom to pursue knowledge.  Does this create a kind of paradox, or is there some way to account for the apparent aggression induced by having the freedom to pursue knowledge?

Not sure what you're saying. If something truly impinges on someone else's rights (not simply affects someone else adversely, which is different) then one does not to have the freedom to pursue it without the other person's permission. What's the problem?

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What I am trying to get at is when the freedom to act within your rights has unintentional consequences to anothers right.  I'm imagining a situation where there's no need to disclose ones activities to those around them because there's no expectation they will be effected.  But accidents happen.  Suppose in such a situation unintentional, but real damages happen to someone else.  Wouldn't that person rightfully consider those kind of free actions an aggression against them?

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But accidents happen. 

If someone has taken all reasonable precautions and is acting reasonably, but something still goes wrong, that cannot be considered "aggression". The person who made the mistake may be liable for damages. If he's taken the most fundamental precaution of taking out insurance, the insurance will pay the damages.

(At the same time, there is no general right such as the right to live in a completely risk-free environment, nor is there a general right to be unaffected adversely by the actions of others.)

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@ Nicky - Is freedom, and all the rights associated with it, delimited to the practice of the non-aggression principle?

No. Political freedom is the freedom to exercise one's rights. A free society is governed by an objectively defined concept: individual rights.

The "non-aggression principle" is useless, simplistic nonsense. It's the political equivalent of children standing half an inch away from someone saying "I'm not touching you" over and over again. Humans interact in far more complex ways than could be governed by the "don't touch me" principle.

Edited by Nicky
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A 'right' is a choice which one is morally entitled to make without deliberate interference.

Moral entitlement refers to a relationship between two conscious beings, which specifies the most valuable range of actions that are possible to them.

Accidental interference (which I also use to refer to the interference of animals and inanimate matter) is amoral by definition; a relationship (moral or not) takes at least two human beings; only consciously chosen interference can violate one's rights.

Freedom is the state of having one's rights recognized by one's peers.

Edit:

When Heinlein said:

"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do." I believe he was underscoring what the founding fathers meant by 'inalienable'.

Rights cannot be given, taken away, nor altered because they are direct extensions of our capacity to choose. When freedom is taken away, we simply work a little harder to express them.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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