Are we actually free? or for that matter, does real freedom exist today?
The other day I was watching a video on ‘Freedom’ posted by Guardian. In the video, philosopher Slavoj Žižek argued that apparent freedom is actually governed by a complex series of conditions in the modern day. For Žižek, a ‘pathetic, old romantic’, the highest form of freedom is in fact love.
Rather than the video itself, I found the comments on it interesting and picked up a few which made sense to me. A certain individual profoundly highlighted that its actually not possible to be completely free. According to him Absolute freedom is not possible and we can only be free relatively, like we can be free from somebody or something or choose to be ‘someone’ or ‘not someone’. The choices are finite and our choices come from within those limited numbers.
Another very important question that was raised was, Do we actually know who we are? All of us constantly strive to be free, so that we can be ‘ourselves’, without having much of an idea who we really are. Most of us are not taught either by parents or for that matter the curriculum itself, to find ourselves. Our identity is always relative to something else. Thus towards the end, what we believe as freedom might not be actually so. Like one commenter truly summed it up, “the only freedom available for humans is ‘starvation to death’ and usually we don’t exercise this freedom…the rest is pseudo freedoms and usually tied-up, controlled by other forces”.
Another reader throws a very interesting light to the freedom in his otherwise long comment, he says, “People don’t want freedom – they want happy bondage. People want happy slavery. They want gratification and belonging, and their choices made for them before they even have to think about them. You don’t get that from real freedom – real freedom brings anxiety, hard choices, conflict, loneliness, early death in a cold bedsit. People, on the whole, want to be cogs in the machine, as long as the machine gives them sufficient gratification. It would be irrational not to – no-one decides they want misery with originality. Generally, the really free thinkers are people who wanted to embrace conventional ideology but were rejected because they couldn’t fit in, and then they began to realize the nature of things, and tried to take their revenge through art and writing. Philosophers and artists are generally rejects in some sense – or the greatest ones are. If Nietzsche had been healthy and married, there would have been no Beyond Good and Evil and no Zarathustra. If Kierkegaard (one of Zizek’s favourite thinkers) and Van Gogh had been accepted into the ministry and married, there would have been none of their works of genius. If Sartre had been tall, handsome, and straight-eyed, he probably wouldn’t have written Being and Nothingness, or any of his other stuff. If Charles Bukowski hadn’t had the shit beaten out of him by his father and suffered depression and chronic acne, he probably would have gone places and been happy instead of tossing envelopes in the post office, and there would have been no books. You could go on and on listing them. There’s always a reason behind rebellious originality – always some failing that meant they were blocked from conventional happiness. Humans are superficial and live for creaturely pleasures and clone-thinking, unless they get screwed up in some way and are then tossed out by the system. Anyway, the point is – real freedom is anathema to most people, it would destroy most of us – that’s if we could even choose it in the first place”
Philosophers over the years have always sought to explore on the issue of freedom and have given their own theories on it. For instance, Hobbes tells us that agents are free to the extent they are unimpeded by external obstacles. Sarte mentions that “Freedom is existence, and in it existence precedes essence.” To give an example to it, one tells the truth not because one is honest, but rather one defines oneself as honest by telling the truth over and over. Sartre rejects determinism, saying that it is our choice how we respond to determining tendencies.
(This blog, though a compilation, is completely different from what I deal with or at least seem to do so. Philosophies and theories, though have been my interest always, I never found ‘time’ to delve deeper into them. Now that I am back to pursuing my higher studies, I am back to reading and keenly following the works of various philosophers. Of course it has brought about more and more questions, which I sometimes discuss with my partner. Follow this space for more of this…!!! Source of article and images: web. Not copyrighted by author)
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