This past term I took a Metaphysics 101 class. Best decision I have made in my college career! The thing is, because I have basically 2 majors and a minor I technically don’t have any free electives left, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up. I had two hours to spare in between classes every Tuesday and Thursday and this class was just perfect to fill that time. Anyway, our teacher wanted us to write a 2-3 page essay on different metaphysics topics. What is reality? What is time? What is God? Etc. We had to do 5, but I’m thinking I might actually expand on all the other ones as well. Either way, I’d like to start this little collection and see where it leads.

Here is my first one: What is Freedom?

“Freedom” is a word that is acknowledged as some idealistic free-for-all where people can do anything they want despite morals, societal laws, or physics. They believe that to be “free,” we essentially should not have any restrictions – to never be told “NO.” With this definition freedom is not something that exists in our world.

Our physical body is the main limitation that cuts off our freedom to do certain things. Out in the spirit world this limitation does not exist. People who have had out-of-body experiences and even just lucid dreams can see how strong the limitations of having to eat to stay alive, be subject to the power of gravity, and communication through language are. Yet we are constricted to walking on land, loosing otherwise productive hours to sleep, limiting our experiences to the geographical areas of the world that we have the opportunity to visit.

We are also limited by our society. People, no matter how sinister their desires or how honorable their intentions, can’t act impulsively and commit whatever action they think off without facing the consequences. Governments set laws, rules, and regulations that we must follow or risk losing our basic freedoms like having a home, a job, going to school, being able to go outside in general  – the things we couldn’t do in jail. This “freedom” that many of us have is a privilege in our society since it can be taken away even if we are innocent which means it’s not actually freedom at all. It’s a choice is limited by the justice system that we, as human beings, have boxed ourselves in. Sometimes governments use their laws and regulations to keep the masses from raising their standards of living or evolving spiritually like in totalitarian regimes, or by banning media and the freedom of speech or religion. Most of this system comes from the fact that human nature tends to come with “baggage” which sets greed, power, and corruption as the top priorities for some humans. To counter these things, we must set laws for ourselves so that our human rights aren’t violated and so we do not live in fear of being murdered or have our hard earned possessions stolen from us. It is the main reason for the governments that we have created.

The idea of freedom is very broad and it stems from our insatiable desires. We always want more of everything and the biggest problem is that sometimes our desires overlap. Two people may want the same thing and the progress we have made through industry allows us to produce things so that everyone can have one. But no matter how hard you try two people can’t have the same person, or the same house, or the same job. And therefore complete freedom is unattainable because many of us believe that if we have the ability to get everything we want and do everything we want then we are truly free.

Humans do have a certain special kind of freedom – we have free will. Whether you believe it comes from God or is an inherent part of our nature, we have the freedom to choose. It might not be the freedom to choose to fly or breathe under water because those are limited by physical constraints, but we have the freedom to choose to want to do those things. It would be difficult to imagine not knowing that those options existed or that they existed, but we had no ability to think about them or argue over them or desire to somehow accomplish them despite the physical limitations. We have opportunities to choose where to go to school, or which country to live in. Even if we are from a low-income nation where the opportunities are scarce, we still have the option to choose one thing over another and hopefully what we choose will make us better off than before.

Free will ties closely to our only uninhibited freedom – thinking. Our free will is when we act on which choice with think is better, but of course those choices are limited by the outer world. Thoughts, ideas, wishes, and opinions are entirely our own, as individuals. We have no limit to what we can create within our own minds. The power of imagination and creativity is limitless and therefore completely free. It is something that cannot be taken away by anyone, even after death. It is what makes us such unique creatures in our own world (I can’t speak for the whole universe.)

Compared to us for example, animals are limited in what they can think. As far as we know, wolves do not invent new technologies or paint fantastical landscapes. Chimps do not write books about wizards and goblins. From their perspective though, their own thoughts might present limitless possibilities, but that is mainly because when you do not know what you’re missing you can’t actually miss it. For humans, the world within our minds is limitless. We have the ability to learn new things and remember them. To imagine beautiful places that may not actually exist on our planet. We even have the ability to control our moods if we train our mind enough. And the most important thing is that we can sit and ponder about the world, the universe, God, or other philosophies without having to pick up a single book. Yes, learning a language is necessary to communicate with others and we often think through language in our own heads. Yet I believe that even if we are not taught those things we can still use our mind in other ways because we were created with the capacity to use it to its full potential. And since its full potential is limitless and we can always learn more, create more, think more, it is truly free. Even people with mental disorders still think and to them their world is limitless even if to the healthy people it seems to lack something.

Just like all the other topics in philosophy, freedom is a subjective ideal. Some people may think that freedom means financial stability and a limitless supply of material objects. Yet for some people, freedom is the hope to finally be released from prison whether they got there by committing a crime or are victims of wars and oppression. And yet others believe that freedom lies beyond society, in remote jungles and mountains where they can live peacefully off the land. The truth is that all of these are degrees of freedom, but not true freedom at all. That lies beyond this life, beyond the physical and societal limits that we cannot escape.