General Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Are you truly free?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (39017points) July 12th, 2009

and in what ways are you not?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

42 Answers

Thammuz's avatar

Social condtioning, nobody actually is completely free.

SirBailey's avatar

You can’t walk around naked.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Thammuz i agreebut so many things that people do that they are conditioned to do they mistake for free will/individual choices

SirBailey's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir , every chance I got!!! But I’d be more interested in looking at others!!!

Jayne's avatar

It depends on how you define “you”.

Thammuz's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir does the fact that you think you are free make you free? The fact that we think we’re deciding not to do somethings doesn’t really mean we would be able to do them.

SirBailey's avatar

You’re not free to do just ANYTHING you want. Your freedoms can’t impose upon someone else’s (whether you understand HOW they do or not).

Facade's avatar

No, I’m very expensive

Milladyret's avatar

Nope. The bank’s got my ass in a tight grip for the next 29 years :P

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

No one is unless they’re insane and unawares. Giving love and responsibility costs, mostly in good ways but it does cost autonomy.

marinelife's avatar

No, because being part of a society means making compromises to accept the society’s cultural norms.

We are freer than most of mankind in most of history in the sense that we take ourselves largely off the grid of society. Buy remote land. Set up our own power generation, Stockpile and/or raise food. But making that choice then limits our other daily choices.

Blondesjon's avatar

Free is what you make it.

Everyone is free to do as they please. There may be consequences to doing as we wish but we are free to make our choices.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I agree with @Blondesjon We are all free to make our decisions. We are free to be who we want to be. I am restricted from becoming a serial killer because that infringes on the rights of other people’s freedom, and I think I am okay with that.

AstroChuck's avatar

You bet. And easy.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Technically… yes. I could do whatever I like with my life at this point, I’m living under my own roof and managing my own life. But I feel very bound by social/societal obligations – e.g. school loans, bills, even things like feeding the cat or calling my mother when I don’t really feel like it. I feel so obliged to do these things that they are second nature, and they’re no longer a choice in my mind. Therefore I’m not truly free.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Actually, I don’t feel that I need to be. I’m happy. :)

Jeruba's avatar

No. Even if I had infinite means at my disposal, even if I got to have everything my way (which I wouldn’t want—a paradox right there), even if I could rectify all my ignorance, I would still be bound to my earthly body and all the ills that flesh is heir to.

Freedom is relative. I may have freedom from and freedom to, but freedom absolute is attainable only in the mind, and only there by not striving to attain.

Resonantscythe's avatar

By no means. I owe money, have to dedicate the majority of my time to work and I’m held by societal “norms”. I have to consider the consequences for my actions and Inaction. I have to watch what I say, do, and think. where I say and/or do things and who I say/do things to/with/about/because of .

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’m not free, but I am a pretty cheap date, and low maintenance. Doesn’t get much better than that. You’d be surprised what buying me an ice cream will get you. =)

Darwin's avatar

Free? Not at all. I have teenage children depending on me. I have a disabled husband depending on me. I have elderly parents depending on me. I have dogs and cats depending on me. And I have to answer to the IRS every year.

However, I do try to get in a long soak in a warm tub with a good book about once a week. And I don’t owe on a car or a house any longer.

Jack79's avatar

No, at the moment I’m not free at all. Apart from the usual constraints of living in a civilised society (with all the implications that carries), I have a daughter who is highly dependant on me, in a lot of trouble right now, and in desperate need for my intervention. So I’ve always got to think of her first, and this is something I expect to keep doing for at least another 14 years. But I have been relatively free in the past, so I don’t complain.

aprilsimnel's avatar

What does “free” mean? To do anything one pleases without restraint or consequences? That doesn’t work, does it?

Mrs Premise: It’s a funny thing, freedom. I mean, how can any of us really be free when we still have personal possessions?

Mrs Conclusion: You can’t, you can’t. I mean, how can I go off and join FRELIMO when I’ve got nine more installments to pay on the fridge?

Mrs Premise: No, you can’t. You can’t.

loser's avatar

Yes, but I’m not easy.

EntitY's avatar

Free in relation to what boundary? There are few who are totally free and I sure have not met them…

ratboy's avatar

I thought I was until I checked the thesaurus. “Freedom” is not just another word for “nothing left to lose.”

dannyc's avatar

No, but I fight hard for my freedom. Political correctness has overtaken the importance of freedom to be what you really are. It is a tragedy. We fought for it and are losing it with social mandarins and government agendas that are now firmly trying to control our lives and minds. Fight for the freedom to be wrong (and flawed), it is our only way to insure what is right.

CMaz's avatar

I am free to know that one day I will die.

That is pretty much it. Otherwise, always constraints to what ever you are doing or want to do.

Nially_Bob's avatar

My answer depends strongly upon how “truly free” is defined but should I follow my immediate guess and assume it to refer to a state of total freedom (one can do anything) then no, no entity can be “truly free”, nor should they want to be; to live without constraints would be a rather insipid existence.

mattbrowne's avatar

Neurobiology discovered that very likely there’s no conscious free will at all. Decisions and triggers for action come from the unconscious mind. But there’s a conscious veto power. You can stop the execution.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@mattbrowne – Yeah, that’s the bit I’m working out; how to consistently make my conscious mind like the governor calling in with the pardon before something awful happens!

CMaz's avatar

” But there’s a conscious veto power. You can stop the execution.”

Not true. That is just another neuro triger.

Blondesjon's avatar

Yes. All you are responsible for is shipping & handling.

wundayatta's avatar

Freedom is always constrained—if only by physical laws of our universe. However, we are also always free to respond to those constraints in any way we want to. Even in prison, we are free to respond to our circumstances. Circumstances are just a structure in which to exercise freedom.

In fact, without structure, I don’t think freedom could exist. Yes, it might seem like you could be God and do anything, but with nothing to react to, with nothing to be in relationship to, can there really be said to be a you? Personally, I don’t think so.

Freedom is not about exercising “rights” or being able to do anything you set your mind to. Freedom is not about being able to have as few constraints in your life as possible. Money and power buy you a reduction in constraints, but they don’t really buy you more freedom.

Freedom, when it comes down to it, is a state of mind. You can go through life and believe you are being thrown around like a rag doll. You can believe you have no choice in anything. In fact, you are free to believe that and think that is what your life is made of. However, if you do think that, you won’t even recognize that you are free.

The only real freedom happens inside you—inside your sense of personhood. It comes when you realize that you have choices in every situation—even when you are sitting in the electric chair. You always have freedom to choose how you will respond. No one can get inside your mind and make you think this or that.

Even though our brains are driven by chemicals, and those chemicals can determine our moods, and even our thoughts—they still don’t determine everything. Choice is always a part of life. There is randomness at play, and where there is randomness and chaos, especially at the subatomic level, then there is choice. There is no deterministic outcome. If you recognize this, you will always be completely and truly free. If you don’t, you are jailed in a prison of your own design. Of course, you’re free do build that prison if you want!

CMaz's avatar

“In fact, without structure, I don’t think freedom could exist.”
I guess instinct would kick in. Are not animals in the wild free?

“where there is randomness and chaos, especially at the subatomic level, then there is choice.”
Randomness and chaos are terms to explain something we do not understand.
Randomness and chaos occur for some reason, something triggers it to occur. Devoiding it from Randomness and chaos.

mattbrowne's avatar

There’s a lot of debate still going on. Here’s an interesting article:

‘Some of the greatest neuroscience discoveries to date demonstrate not only that people engage in unconscious brain processes, but that these processes play a big role in their lives—for example, “We deeply imitate people around us” or “tend toward things that are familiar to us, even the sound of a word.” Such advances, he added, suggest that people have no control over such unconscious brain processes—that is, lack free will. However, he does not believe this to be the case, he said: free will is influenced, but not eliminated, by the unconscious. Also, there is a lot we don’t know and a lot we will never know [about free will].’

Jayne's avatar

@mattbrowne; I believe what ChazMaz meant was that the conscious mind is also an expression of our brain, so even when it overrides the unconscious mind, or what we choose, rather arbitrarily, to call the unconscious mind, it is still no more exemplary of free will unless we choose to define it as such.

Jayne's avatar

This is the view that I take on this (from your link): “The event that the brain becomes aware that it has made a choice is simply more information processing for a neuroscientist while dualist philosophers and religious people raise objections against the scientific view. For a scientist, there is no reason that consciousness is something else than what happens in the nervous system. Therefore, the scientists would go on to explicate the processes underlying consciousness itself instead of interpreting consciousness as a supernatural power. One brain part may be able to suppress the decision that another brain part has made after finding out about it, explaining the power of veto in a scientific way.”

Since there is no real reason to differentiate between conscious and unconscious, except for the practical fact that most of our behavior mirrors our conscious mind, it doesn’t matter which dominates over the other; free will only makes sense if you arbitrarily define all or part of the mind as a complete and irreducible entity, separate from outside input, which is a very practical thing to do (we do it all the time by assuming that each person has a unique ‘self’) but is not philosophically meaningful. I could define a computer as such an entity, and would then be equally justified in saying that it has free will; people are just much more complex (so far) and it is more natural to do so for them.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s actually my hope that free will turns out to be more than just veto power. When I commented that ‘neurobiology discovered that very likely there’s no conscious free will at all’ I was hoping to start an interesting debate. Neurobiologists can’t agree it seems and I’m just a computer scientist and not an expert in neurobiology. But the field is truly fascinating and so much has happened over the past 5–10 years. Compare that to the slow progress in theoretical physics. I hope they can get the damned LHC to work later this year ;-)

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