LIBERTE – FREEDOM
“Freedom reminds me of when I was a child and people used to say: “your freedom ends where the freedom of others begins” “that is freedom”.”
"The word "freedom" in France is an important concept, it is on the slogan of our nation: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity", but it is clearly not put into practice! Behind it we can find the foundations of universalism which advocates a society where we are all equal... But without really paying attention to our differences or diversity in France. Not addressing our own diversity means that this freedom and this particular slogan will never be accessible.”
"Freedom is a very important value, but this word is not enough. You have to accept yourself and others first, and then perhaps a well-thought-out life together where you can feel truly free.”
The word freedom (“liberté” in French) comes from the Latin “liber” and it referred to people who were neither slaves nor prisoners. It was a status reserved for citizens (people who could participate in political life). This definition takes us directly to the political dimension of the word liberty: I am free to do what the law allows me to do.
Freedom can be also defined negatively (an absence of constraints), or positively (the possibility to do what one wants).
Freedom is opposed to the idea of destiny and determinism: the sequences of events are just the consequences of causes that we cannot control.
Many philosophers have thought about and debated the idea of freedom: for Descartes, freedom is not the possibility of doing everything, freedom is found in man’s attitude to accept the world as it is, and to adapt his desires to reality.
Montesquieu proposes a similar definition for the idea of freedom: “freedom is the right to do whatever the law allows and if a citizen could do what the law forbids, he would no longer have freedom because others would also have that power“.
Other philosophers think that freedom is an illusion: for Spinoza, man should not think of himself as “independent of the empire of nature“.
In our society, we often hear that our freedom ends where the freedom of others begins. This thought was strongly reinforced after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789). According to its article 4, “freedom consists in being able to do all that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man has no limits other than those that ensure the enjoyment of these same rights by other members of society. These limits can only be determined by the law“.
Freedom as a political fact was thought of by the philosopher Rousseau through his concept of the “social contract”. He distinguishes between natural liberty and civil liberty.
Even if we all have the book of referees, it has been a long time since human beings wonder whether we have absolute freedom, or whether freedom is only an idea.
Philosophers, in turn, define it as the possibility of choosing well, in contrast to the concept of the possibility of choice, whatever it may be.
References to go deeper:
“Existentialism Is a Humanism”, by Jean-Paul Sartre
Video: “Philip Pettit : How Do You Know If You’re Truly Free?” from TEDx Talks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rTEOU67zCo
“The freedom to be free”, by Hannah Arendt