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Thursday, November 02, 2006 CE

Are You Really Free?


Most people would answer “yes! We live in a free country!” However, in order to answer to this apparently simple question we have to clarify a couple of concepts.

First, we have the concept of political freedom, which is a combination of the ability to exercise, in an unrestrained form, the following rights: Assembly, association, education, movement (or travel), press, religion (or belief), speech, and thought. Anyone who lives in an environment that provides the above mentioned rights can consider itself living in a free society. However, is that enough?

There is also the concept of philosophical freedom. I went to the Wikipedia to find a good definition of this and I found this: “Freedom is a many-faceted, positive term encompassing the ability to act consciously, in a well-balanced manner and with self control in a given constructive direction”.” It is often measured by the degree of absence of external restraint or external control; however, the biggest restraints come from the self: ignorance, which leads to fear, then restraint; and the lack of self control”. External restraints (or control) are also the ones that make a society not free from a political point of view.

Given the two concepts, we must conclude that in order to be free, we have to live in an environment that provides enough rights {political freedom) and, at the same time, be able to act always consciously without internal restraints (philosophical freedom). Therefore, an individual who lives in a politically free society cannot consider itself free if its actions are limited by ignorance, fear and lack of self-control. Likewise, a person who is intellectually superior and emotionally balanced cannot consider itself free if it lacks the essential rights mentioned above.

Now, after the definitions have been provided, how many of us are really free? We can argue that we, in the U.S., live in a politically free society. So, in order to define ourselves as free we have to concentrate in the concept of philosophical freedom. We can reduce the issue to 2 simple questions. Are we ignorant? And, do we always exhibit self-control? (Or do I never let my emotions take control of myself?)

Ignorance is not an absolute term. We can be ignorant about some topics and knowledgeable about others. If we remain ignorant with respect, for example a potential threat, we become fearful, therefore prisoner of an emotion. This is a moment of weakness that can be used by other individuals to restrict our political freedom. The key to fight ignorance is to achieve high quality information. How do we achieve it in a world that seems to have an abundance of it? There are 3 elements that I took from an article by Sheldon Richman. They are independent thought, rigorous questioning and rational skepticism. If we exercise these 3 elements in our everyday gathering of information, we certainly become freer.

Emotion control is also important. Fear, rage, panic, sadness, extreme joy, can certainly impair the judgment and limit the range of options we have we confront situations. We are human beings, not machines, so we certainly will be moments in which our freedom will be restrained by an intense emotion.

Having said everything, I must conclude that freedom is not an absolute term. We can be free sometimes and prisoner in other times. However, I can say that there are people that are freer than other ones. Living in a politically free society that lets us speak our mind and travel where we want is certainly not enough.

10 Comments:

Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

Wow. Some deep thought. Let me bring it down some levels so I can join in.

1. We need food, clothes, cover, and a some time with other folks. The rest are just wants (cause a lot of stress and conflict).

Food, clothes, cover and time with others is easy to get in the USA. So, I say we as a whole are free, and so is much of the world.

- Life is in our own minds and there are 2 things we can control. When we loose our mind it does not matter any more. The two things we control...
1. Our attitude
2. What we believe

We are free.

Q

3:26 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q:

It has been a while. Just a question. What happens when we are fed with erroneus information? Are the decisions we would make, based on them, be proper of a free person?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

We are human beings, not machines, so we certainly will be moments in which our freedom will be restrained by an intense emotion.

That is certainly true, as you and I discussed last night. ;-)

Internal constraints are key. When George W. Bush says that freedom is "a gift from God to every man and woman on earth," he is saying that freedom is bestowed by a dictator. That is simply not true. He doesn't understand that freedom, like democracy, is a process that must be discovered by the self.

Thank you for this post.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Kristine:

Freedom has to be generated naturally from the system in which we live. In a truly democratic system, no governor, senator, president, saint or god can be impose freedom (or give it as a gift)

11:03 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

I'm fed up with most people that blog. You'er my last hope for blogging...

When have we ever had good data? We thought water was "clear" only to learn that it is full of microbes. We thought Newton was right, yet we now know he was wrong at the subatomic level. We thought Einstein was right yet many now question his theories. Roosevelt called the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor a surprise, yet many question that to this day. Some people question whether the US really put men on the moon and brought them back. I know two astronauts that swear we walked on the moon including Buzz Aldrin, who allegedly walked on the moon, and John Blaha who piloted several shuttles. Many people beleive that planes did not crash into the towers, but that Bush boomed them. Many say Jesus never lived despite Roman documents that reference Jesus. Many say Lance Armstrong used drugs even though he past all drug tests. What is good data Marco?

Q

6:09 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q:

It is the fact that we can question, that we put thought in what we are told, that makes us free (I believe). Information will always be deceiving. As you know, 90% of all the information that is in the web is junk. You would be surprised but only 3 or 4 years ago, it was published that only 6% of the decision making made in medicine is properly evidence based. The rest is based on experience and in what the doctor feels it is best. In my training as a specialist, I was told an important lesson. "You must learn how to deal with uncertainty". i mentioned in my post that we have to accept that we woill not know everything, that we will be ignorant in some instances and, by definition not free. So freedom becomes a relativistic value. sometimes we are and sometimes we are not free.

By the way, I tried to see your site, but you do not seem to have one. When I blog I try to show what I think. I do have an ego, but, for some people, blogging is about their ego. If you ever give up blogging, keep visiting and commenting, I always value your input.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

Uncertainty is a daily event in life. Curiously, it is the focus of my life. My primary responsibility is now competitive intelligence. My job is to forecast what competitors are going to do and how it will affect my company. Quite a bit of uncertainty.

I learned about your challegne, the challenge faced by doctors, when I was a kid. I asked my dad "How do you handle doctors?" You see, my father was a lawyer. He told me doctors were easy to handle because most jurors viewed doctors as gods. All he had to do was ask a few questions that nobody could answer and it shattered the image the jurors had of doctors.

I shut my blog down because it was not achieving its goal. To me most people are totally overwhelmed by life. Our societies have become extremely complex and with the web, TV, cable, radio, and press we are overwhelmed with data and information. Data and information are not to be confused with knowledge or understanding. My father was a master at simplifying complex situations. I learned from him that life is complex but truth is simple. And yes, I do believe there are some timeless, universal truths.

The intent of my blog was to clear some of the fog. The problem with my intent is that most people ignore data that does not fit their view of the world.

==> Most people are not seeking the truth, they are seeking affirmation of their thinking.

What makes me think I'm right? Nothing. I will say this. On multiple occasions I was able to make statements and defend those statements against all challenges. But it was not having any affect.

Covey wrote in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" that we all have a sphere of concern and a sphere of influence. Any effrot spent outside of your sphere of influence is a waste of your resources. I took that to heart and dumped my blog.

I still like both your topics and your approach. As I said, my last bastion for blogging.

You see, I will not forget how you responded to my defense of being a conservative/republican. While you didn't switch over to the dark side, you did acknowledged my thinking, logic, and my data as reasonable.

I look forward to more visits here.

Q

9:06 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q:

Quite a bit of uncertainty in your job. Many variables. In my job as a kidney specialist, my goal is to help the body restore its internal milieu. Sodium, potassium, BUN, creatinine, blood pressure, etc, must return to normal levels. There are many variables to deal with and many tools that can provide different outcomes.

The purpose of my blog is to enlighten. Many times, I blog what I have just learned, like the case of the MRCA post, before this one. I take a look at the information, do some more research to make sure it is valid, and add a little bit of opinion to help the values in which I believe. Enlightening, is a way of increasing freedom.

The truth has to be simple, however, the process of understanding has to be complex. E=mc2 is the product of difficult to understand physics. The truth might be simple, difficult to find, but always has to be verifiable. The seeker, in oder to arrive to the simple conclusion must master the complexities of the road.

I have a naturalistic viewpoint of the world. I have learned to live without deities or demons. I have no need to affirm my thoughts, I just want to learn and communicate. And also to pose questions like the one in the post, to show the ambiguity in which we live. We are free sometimes, sometimes we are not.

Finally, the dark side is not the conservative/republican. The dark side is the side where people live thinking they understand, when they are just being manipulated by others interested in keeping them in the dark.

10:32 PM  
Blogger IGOR said...

Another brilliant reflexion my friend. To me, the matter of freedom has different perspectives so you can be phisically, mentally or emotionally free. The complete freedom sensation comes when you have all three together. And I remark sensation, because ultimately that is what it is... a sensation, a perception. Thus becomes a very personal and subjective matter. Due to this fact, someone may feel free even when physically restrained, but more often when intellectually or even emotionally restarined (in another person point of view). What really matters is how the individual perceives it, as it is not tangible or measurable, as all other feelings and perceptions aren't. And if your own ideas about waht constitutes freedom are close to the situation you actually live in, you will feel free....Thus the answer to the question of are we really free will be indeed only found in ourselves.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Igor:

I agree when you say that freedom is the combination of different types of freedom. I agree also when you say that freedom is in ourselves. Freedom, in a way becomes a responsability, more than a right

10:30 PM  

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