The Concept of Freedom

Freedom is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter. It is a crucial element of democracy and an essential prerequisite for economic development. There are many definitions of freedom, including the ability to think, act, and choose freely; freedom from a state of imprisonment; and freedom to participate in political and civil societies. The concept of freedom is controversial, however, with some people believing that all races, religions, and social classes should be equally free while others believe that certain groups should not be allowed freedom. There is also debate about whether freedom is a negative or positive attribute, with some people believing that freedom only refers to the absence of oppression, and that all other rights must be guaranteed by government.

In the metaphysical sense, freedom is the ability of an individual to consciously direct his or her thoughts and actions toward a particular goal. It can be considered both a moral and a spiritual attribute, with the latter referring to an internal quality that allows a person to aspire to what is morally good, while the former refers to an external quality that allows a person to avoid doing things that are morally wrong. Freedom is often seen as the ability to do what one wants without being hindered by external causes, although it is important to note that the innate human desire for happiness is not the same thing as true freedom.

In modern terms, the idea of freedom is often associated with the notion of liberty and independence, where individuals are not tied down to a single employer or place in life and are able to pursue multiple career paths, relationships, and hobbies. This kind of freedom can be viewed as both a moral and a philosophical attribute, and it is argued that the modern Western world has achieved an unprecedented level of freedom with respect to previous generations.

The etymology of freedom is uncertain, although some scholars have attributed it to Old English freodom (“freedom, state of being free”) or the Latin adjective liberti (“freed”), which means “free from”. The concept has been influenced by the Greek noun (fredom), meaning the power of choice and action. It is related to the concepts of liberation and emancipation, such as that of the formerly enslaved seamstress who bought her own freedom in order to become Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker.

For students to understand the different types of freedom, an interesting exercise is to divide them into groups and assign each group a specific freedom. The groups then work together to create two tableaus: one showing a society that is practicing the assigned freedom and the other showing a society that is not. The groups should stand with their tableaus for about 10 minutes, and they should try to use levels, spacing, and group dynamics to build frozen representations that convey the meaning of their chosen freedom.