What is freedom?
Bhatta – you ask the most amazing questions – so simple on the surface, yet so deep as to take the rest of forever to answer.
There are so many layers and levels to freedom – perhaps potentially infinitely many, and there do seem to be some repeating patterns.
At the physical level, freedom is taken to be the absence of unnecessary restraint on action.
That then leaves the question about what is necessary where and when.
Things like gravity, water food and air seem essential for human survival – freedom is not an absence of these thing, but rather the presence of these things enhances freedom.
Same goes for technologies that empower communication and travel and diversity of experience.
At the level of awareness, freedom seems to be a levels thing, as we bring awareness of the very many levels of influence on our behaviour – the physical levels of chemistry and physics and biology, the various levels of distinctions and paradigms, the habits and culture, and every level of awareness we are able to generate.
In logic, either there is cause at work, or there is freedom.
If an action is the result of cause and effect, then it cannot be free.
If an action arises out of nothing, then it is free from all prior influence.
It seems that this reality in which we find ourselves is at a fundamental level random, within certain probability functions tightly defined in time and space. These functions give us very predictable outcomes at larger scales of space and time.
It seems that freedom for human beings is something like this also.
We have many influences upon us, and to the degree that we can generate awareness of those influences, we are able to counter their effects, and create a level of freedom from them.
Landmark Education have a definition of choice that is “A free selection, after and not based upon, reason or consideration”.
That is a statement I have spent over 20 years contemplating and examining periodically. It appears extremely powerful to me.
Thus for me, freedom is something like a star used in navigation. People do not expect to get to a star, they use the star to navigate to a destination that is much closer.
It seems that we human beings can most powerfully approximate freedom by becoming as aware as we are able of all of the aspects of our being, in the full knowledge that we are far too complex to ever be able to know ourselves in full detail, and the more we try, the closer we get.
So there is much power in many of the ancient practices.
Meditation is a technique that brings awareness to the upper levels of consciousness.
With practice it can reliably create a gap between impulse and action, wherein it is possible for awareness to exert choice.
The practice of non-judgemental awareness is another powerful tool.
The only logical path out of the trap of right & wrong is go beyond it. Declaring right & wrong to be wrong doesn’t get you anywhere, it just moves the issue out a level. Non-judgemental awareness gets us into the habit of just noticing existence, ourselves and all around us, without imposing any value judgements.
Value judgements may be a useful shorthand in childhood, and in the complexity of adult life usually cause far more problems than they offer solutions. Freedom seems to require that we allow of infinite possible paths from anywhere to anywhere.
Ultimately freedom is about choosing our paths through whatever dimensions of reality we choose to travel or inhabit. As Laurie Buchanan has as the tagline to her website “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
Sorry Andrew – but “unfettered execution of will and movement, without personal consequence” is not freedom – it is ultimate entrapment.
If we are to have any effect, any ability to act in reality, to move, to influence anyone or any thing, then there must be consequence as a result of our action.
What is required of us is to accept that consequences exist and to be as responsible as we are able for the consequences of action. And of course we are limited beings, and cannot calculate the infinite ripples of consequences of our action, so our responsibility is limited (like our freedom) to the reasonably foreseeable.
To be trapped in an existence where we could have no consequence, we could not act in any way, not communicate in any way with any other entity, would be the most terrible form of prison I could imagine.
All actions, even communication have consequences.
None of us can possibly know all the consequences of our actions, and we can be responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences.
I don’t do omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. Any of those ideas is a demonstrable logical impossibility (all require infinite regressive closed loops) – and if it cannot be done in logic, it seems highly unlikely to be present in reality.
And I get that other people do not see things as I do, and that is as I see it.
How can one define action without consequence as anything but nonexistence?
All actions, even inaction, have consequences – infinite ripples of them spreading out through spacetime.
Quite the contrary Andrew.
I am willing to admit the possibility of any member of two general classes of possibilities:
those possibilities for which some measurable, repeatable evidence exists, and
those possibilities for which a logical or mathematical case can be made, and for which no evidence has yet been found.
Both of those are fairly large classes (I suspect both are likely infinite).
That’s more than enough choice for anyone.
I see no point in speculating beyond that – a complete waste of time, because, by the definitions already given, no evidential or logical case can be built.
I don’t deny the possibility of things outside of those two classes. There may be things outside those two classes, but by definition, they cannot effect me (if they could, then there would be evidence, reality seems to be useful like that).
It’s just Ockham’s Razor.