Freedom is a universal sentiment which we all relish. We all have a craving for freedom. Freedom to enjoy life according to our values, preferences, selections, interests, fantasies, whims and fancies etc. is something we all desire. We all have idiosyncrasies and we want the freedom to enjoy them too.
In USA, there is even a Statue of Liberty. Article 21 of Constitution of India confers upon its citizens, fundamental right to life and liberty. I presume that this must be true of constitutions of other nations also. Ironically, the fundamental right to liberty is ambiguous in its statement with inbuilt contradiction. It is ambiguous because it leaves freedom undefined and moreover, freedom can never be total. It is self-contradictory because each and every law is a constraint on human freedom. Twentieth century has witnessed several social movements designated as freedom movements. Teenagers can often be seen singing the tune “This is my life”. Spouses can often be seen breaking homes to enjoy personal freedom. Their craving for personal freedom prevails over the need to have homes. Even women liberation movements have moved in the direction of freedom unlimited.
So freedom is individually, socially and legally recognized sentiment. Freedom is easy to dream but difficult to realize. Because of conflict of interests in human society, one has to struggle throughout one’s life to achieve and sustain freedom. Human freedom is subject to several constraints.
Natural Laws: As stated before that every law is a constraint on human freedom, same is true of natural laws as well. Nature does not function in derogation of its laws. Hence relevant natural laws determine scope, limits and potential of available freedom.
Man made laws: Law in human society, in the absence of proper understanding of its nature has evolved into a plethora of mutually conflicting principles or a jig saw puzzle upon which judiciary is supposed to adjudicate in the final analysis. Therefore in the absence of proper definition of fundamental rights, all the fundamental rights are subject to descriptive and narrative, event specific definitions evolved by the esteemed judiciary. Even the well defined legal rights are subject to compliance with large number of so called procedural laws, administrative laws, contractual obligations, customs and usage, systemic infirmities etc. Hence no legal right is absolute; it is always subject to a plethora of attendant conditions.
Therefore, even though emotionally we all stand for unlimited freedom but in fact it is a mirage. We need to understand limits to our freedom as well its scope. We must learn the manner in which freedom is to be enjoyed. We can enjoy our freedom only by following the path of reasonableness, fairness and justice. Otherwise, we are bound to run into additional contradictions and controversies which besides being detrimental to our freedom are bound to be self destructive and socially disruptive. It demands a perpetual intellectual effort. So the sentiment of freedom can’t be enjoyed without commensurate intellectual efforts. This is precisely the reason that if you are in conflict with a fool, you don’t have to hang the fool, the fool will hang himself. You only have to facilitate his movement in the right direction.
Human freedom has as many facets as diversity of human activities, wants, desires and duties. Material definition of freedom is bound to be context dependent but the underlying essence has to be dynamic balancing of various factors and need for harmony in pursuance of defined goals and objectives.. Its determination may often demand intellectual efforts besides sentiment of freedom. So, merely granting fundamental right to freedom or constructing Statute of Liberty or echoing the sentiment of freedom time and again by celebrating Independence Day year after year is not enough. It requires perpetual intellectual efforts.
To circumvent difficulties due to constraints upon human understanding, this task has often been performed by great thinkers of the past as well as the present in the shape of religious prescriptions, legal principles, morals and ethics etc. even if with imperfections.
In general, in material terms, freedom only means freedom to perform one’s duties without fear of repercussions or reservations. Duties are context dependent and therefore may vary according to nature of relationship, faiths, beliefs, religious prescription, peer group prescriptions, ethics and morals determined by professional bodies, law whether natural or man-made etc.
Therefore deprivation of freedom only means preventing an individual from enjoying performance of his duties. It does not and it can’t mean freedom to act according to one’s whims and fancies or without any rhyme and reason.
Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor has written the book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. This article is inspired by author’s understanding of nature.