I was following some ideas from Jordan Peterson recently, and followed a path through Jung to Stanley Overton’s ideas on free speech, which seem to me to be kind of heading in a useful direction, but also miss a lot. But they helped me to clarify what is missing.
Asking what freedom might mean is one of the deepest questions I have embarked on, involving thousands of hours of contemplation.
It is very hard to define what freedom is.
It is very much easier to say what it is not.
Freedom is not a freedom from consequences.
All actions have consequences.
Some consequences can be reasonably confidently predicted, some cannot.
For those that fall into the class reasonably predictable, we must assume some responsibility.
So we must accept that there are limits, in many dimensions, on the notion of freedom.
And when one acknowledges and accepts such limits as are present, it seems to still leave an infinitude of options.
And there is at a meta level, a real sense in which any distinction narrows down possibilities, and at the same time increases the probability of instantiating something real. Such a balance between the potential and the actual seems eternal.
So one is always faced with a set of trade-offs, around searching undistinguished possibility spaces for possibilities of greater utility (however one cares to define utility) or using some existing set of distinctions to create something.
This idea of intentional not knowing, of active exploration of possibility, seems potentially infinitely recursive.
Faced with an infinitude of possibilities, how and why does one act?
All sorts of different levels of answer to that question.
There is a whole set of survival needs.
The need to breath.
The need for food and water.
The need for hygiene.
The need for housing and spatial security.
The need to avoid dangerous conflict.
These needs have a way of bringing focus to attention and constraining the time (and thereby the probability of searching any particular area of any possibility space) one has to make a choice.
When one starts exploring some of the more abstract spaces, one finds infinite stacks of infinities present. No single infinity may be explored in its totality, let alone infinitely nested sets of infinities.
In the face of such choice. What is freedom?
Given the reality of the many different subconscious systems that genetic and cultural evolution seem to have installed variants of in each of us, how much influence can we consciously create in any particular context, or on any particular class of outcome?
At some level, it seems to come down to how we prioritise.
Priorities are usually the expression of either systems or values (which are the highest levels of systems in a sense).
Coming back more directly to free speech – it is always within a context of our values.
If, as I do, one has chosen individual life as ones highest value, followed by individual liberty, then any form of speech that poses an unacceptable level of risk to the life or liberty of any other person is not something one can allow. Such are things one needs to be responsible for.
In a multicultural environment, such things become very complex very quickly, particularly when foundational assumptions in one culture have been invalidated in another.
There appears to be no end to the potential levels of such cultural conflicts, and there is no possibility of any simple resolution that is universally accepted and agreed.
It seems it must remain an area of negotiation, and an area where context matters.