Kinds of Freedom


Discussions about freedom often identify two distinct kinds of freedom, often described as 'freedom from' and 'freedom to'.  We can have freedom from the constraints of society, and we can have freedom to do what we want to do.  Some people identify a third kind of freedom, which can be described as 'freedom to be' - freedom to be yourself, freedom to be your true self, or freedom to be who you were meant to be.

In the discussion of freedom on this site - or, at least, the discussion so far - we focus on the traditional two kinds of freedom, and ignore the third kind.  This is not because the issues raised by the third kind are unimportant, but because they are quite distinct from the issues raised by the first two.  Freedom is a complicated enough subject already, and attempting to address all three kinds at the same time would unnecessarily complicate the discussion even more.

[See The Meaning of Freedom for more about freedom from and freedom to]

Being Yourself

There are a number of assumptions built into the third kind of freedom - assumptions which are not present when discussing the first two kinds of freedom.  It raises complex questions about the nature of personal identity, and the existence - for each one of us - of a 'true self' which is evidently independent of our choices and actions, and which we can somehow discover.  It raises questions about how we can discover our true self - and how we might determine whether our true self is someone who perseveres through opposition and difficulty, or someone who goes with the flow; whether it is someone who is always looking to have a good time, or someone who is always looking for ways to help others; whether is is someone whose focus is on their personal advancement, or someone who is determined to do the right thing whether it benefits them or not.  It raises questions about what might stop me being my true self, and what I can do to overcome it.

And when you start to raise questions about who you were meant to be, this assumes that there is someone who knows both who you are and who you can become, and has a plan, a desire or an intention concerning what kind of person you should become - which is very much in the territory of some of the traditional religions.  Christianity teaches that we are less than we were intended to be, but through a combination of hard work and God's grace we can participate in the process of becoming who we were made to be.

So the freedom to be raises many interesting questions, but these are quite different from the issues covered by the traditional discussion of freedom.  No doubt we will get around to considering them at some point ...



[See also Freedom and The Meaning of Freedom]


E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of Just Human? to add comments!

Join Just Human?