Locke’s Essay – An Introduction to Individual Freedom

Freedom, by definition, is being able to act or alter without restraint. Something is free if it is not constrained in its current state and is able to change readily. If you look at governments all over the world, you will notice that whenever there is a change in the society, the freedom of the people to engage in their activities are affected. In the United States, the freedom of the citizens to vote, to be free to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances is considered a liberty. But the liberty to be free to disagree with the government and to engage in freedom of speech are considered freedoms.

What about the question, what does the freedom of the citizens mean? The definition of a true freedom should hold that it is the right of the citizens in a country to be allowed to make the choices that affect their lives. So, when we say that our freedoms are being threatened, what exactly is meant by that term?

Freedom means to me the freedom to be let alone – the ability not to be compelled to do or think something simply because one else wants to do it. The First Amendment was adopted to protect the right of free speech and press from abuse. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of the World includes a guarantee of human rights and freedoms. And the United States Declaration of Independence says that these freedoms are necessary for the happiness of man.

When the writer John Locke talked about his ideas of government and individual rights, he used the word “freedoms” ten times. But, when discussing the separation of government and religion, he said that “freedoms of religion and government are to be conferred upon the people, for their security and happiness.” These are the two most important words on which the freedom of the citizens is based. Locke used the word “security” ten times in his Essay on Criticism and government was founded on “security.” The purpose of these words of wisdom of Locke’s Essay on Criticism is quite obvious; it is to point out flaws of current societal structures and the need for new institutions to provide safety and happiness. Locke presents the idea of a moral and political education of individuals.

Locke introduces the idea of individual freedom through the idea of Locke’s Essay on Criticism which says that everyone has an equal right to make choices. This is the first concept of individual freedom. It is up to each individual to choose what course of action they believe would be best for them and everyone would then have the opportunity to make the consequences of that choice. It is up to the individual to allow himself to be molded by society in order to allow them to make their own choices and determine how they would live their lives, no one else can make them do it for them.

In the Essay on Criticism, Locke presents the idea of a free mind, where a person is able to use his/her reason in all things and disregard all concepts of obligation and reward. Locke uses the example of an apple tree to illustrate this notion. One needs to look at all the benefits of this simple concept in order to understand just how valuable it truly is. One cannot ask oneself to give up their natural rights when they understand that their natural rights come from a pure reason, one that is rooted in logic and a knowledge of the world around them.