Are we really free- a treatise on freedom & human potential

“Freedom is what we do to what is done to us.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

Imagine a life where you can do anything, perform any task, have access in every manner possible, execute projectiles in whichever way, and carry out tasks in whichever manner one finds to be most suitable and convenient. Imagine a stage where you have the whole freedom and complete liberty to make choices and speak the language and executive duties in whichever fashion you choose. Many commentators record this to be the evident case of “having absolute freedom” J.P Sartre: a famous French philosopher popularly quoted that: “you are condemned to be free”- means that you have no escape from being free, the moment you are born, you have been awarded the freedom- the very nature of human springs from freedom as the primary principle.

The most pertinent question we should ask ourselves is, are we really free at all? Should we, the humans, be free in full terms and potential ? The human who is called a “rational agent” – is he really acting rationally and critically so that he can be completely free? We must ask this question: how can we be free but still not free to the fullest potential and still get the opportunity to exercise our capabilities in the best manner possible. We must enquire into the question of freedom and actions, of rights and duties, of ethics and obligations.

The human needs freedom and liberation to move hands and limbs in every direction for the betterment of himself. For his development, he needs to exercise the same- behave as a free soul which is unrestricted by oblations over his conscience. But is this actually plausible, is this actually what happens in the contemporary cosmological sense? The answer is a resounding No. To answer it colloquially, we can say that, if we are given with absolute freedom in absolute sense- then that freedom will be dangerous and could have debilitating consequences on the human being- the so-called “rational agent” as Aristotle described.

Turn your head sideways, look towards the destruction and deterioration that the human being has caused and what rapacious actions have resulted to decimate the millions of species of flora and fauna, of properties, of human race and of culture. Blackmore, in her Conversations on Consciousness, “concluded long ago that free will must be an illusion…” For her “the feeling of making free conscious decisions simply melts away.” (p.8) but Sartre says: “Thus freedom… is not a property which belongs among others to the essence of the human being. We have already noticed furthermore that with man the relation of existence to essence is not comparable to what it is for the things of the world. Human freedom precedes essence in man and makes it possible; the essence of the human being is suspended in his freedom. What we call freedom is impossible to distinguish from the being of “human reality‟. Man doesn’t exist first in order to be free subsequently; there is no difference between the being of man and his being free.”

But surprisingly even after commenting in the affirmative in the sense of having absolute freedom, Sartre has provided three pointers that possibly destroy this perception of absolute freedom. The facticity, Socio-political relations and problems associated with the end and decimation of life: Death- these areas cast a gray shadow on the concept of freedom. But let us take a closer view of the problem at hand, for we are still missing some major questions that are essential for us.

Thomas Hobbes, a renowned philosopher, quoted: “A free agent is he that can do as he will, and forbear as he will, and that liberty is the absence of external impediments.” In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume thought that free will (or “liberty,” to use his term) is simply the “power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of the will: that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.… This hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.”; Robert Sapolsky quotes: “We are nothing more or less than the sum of that which we could not control – our biology, our environments, their interactions”. How can we stop the fire that has digested us completely?

My simple submission in this article pertains to this, very fact that consider the case of a man who is being moved by the fear of losing his loved ones, the love for his family, the goals which he has in his mind, the ultimate objective of his life, which could be to attain a perfect income that could possibly sustain his family, the fear of death, and with that various other extraneous variables on which one has no control. Consider the idea of having been moved by cultural, social as well as emotional identities and image that raises the screen of a rational agent’s mind while executing a particular dedicated action. We are called as the “emotive beings”, simply because of the fact that we have feelings, regards as well as appreciated sites. We have our own dislikes, our own negatives which we completely detest. They put us in a state of distress. Isn’t it that all of these things hold behind a person in nature, spirit, and form from executing a particular action in the most free sense possible?

I ask you all to go back to the pages of philosophy that are written in the golden era of the German philosopher Kant– Where he expresses the idea of Performing a particular action by keeping a complete ice over the action performed. Having emotions and various other psychological material considerations are to be completely disregarded from the decision-making process as we are considering preparing rules and regulations for a kingdom of end as he famously quotes it. I asked you to look towards the famous social contract theorist. John Rawls had to say on this when he was talking about having a “veil of ignorance”- Now you have to decide between the emotions, feelings, physiological acknowledgements on one side as well as what these philosopher and romanticists have to say in this case. because this shall truly determine that we are not really free in complete sense- “absolute freedom” is a myth and mystical belief at best.

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B.A Philosophy (Hons.) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi


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