Nowadays everybody speaks about freedom. Yet when we really come to ask ‘what is freedom’ it is not easy to answer. Today freedom is understood in different ways by different people. Thus it is necessary to clarify what we mean by freedom. The term ‘free will’ is customarily regarded as a translation of the Latin expression liberum arbitrium (‘free choice’ or ‘free decision’).
Freedom is the capacity for self-determination or the ability to make up one’s mind and is associated with the will. Freedom refers primarily to a condition characterised by the absence of coercion or constraint imposed by another person. A person is said to be free to the extent that he or she chooses between alternatives available to him or her.
The actions which a human person performs are generally divided into two: ‘human acts’ (actus humanus) and ‘acts of man or woman’ (actus hominis). A ‘human act’ (eg. choosing to drink coffee rather than tea) is one which involves some kind of deliberation (use of will and freedom) on the part of the person, whereas the ‘act of man’ (eg. breathing, digestion, etc) is not preceded by deliberation.
Freedom is the basis for asserting one’s subjectivity, unique dignity among creatures as well as for maintaining that one is a person. Free will is also the foundation for responsibility, accountability and morality.
Freedom is possible only with regard to finite goods.
In our personal experience of desiring, choosing, and refraining from possible actions freedom is evident. The will can be attracted to an object only in so far as it recognizes this as some kind of good. A good that can satisfy only to a limited extent is called a positive finite good whereas one that can satisfy in every conceivable respect is called universal or supreme good. Freedom of choice is exercised only with regard to objects regarded as particular goods or finite goods. Before the supreme good the will is not free.
Types of freedom-:
Freedom can be of various types such as the following: Physical freedom is the absence of physical restraint. For example, a prisoner is physically free only when he or she is released from prison.
Moral freedom is the absence of restraint through oppressive forces of the moral order such as rewards, punishments, laws, threats, etc.
Political freedom is the absence of political pressures. For example, in a democratic country the citizens are free to express their opinion on the formation of the government through the exercise of their franchise, criticise the functioning of the government, etc.
Psychological freedom is defined as that capacity which a human being possesses for choosing to do or not to do a thing when all the conditions for action are already present. It is also called freedom of choice since it allows the free subject to choose between different courses of action. For example, a hungry person can decide to refrain from taking food, and a soldier freighted by a heavy bombardment can choose to stay at his post. In Philosophical anthropology our main concern is with psychological freedom.
Under psychological freedom we need to mention various kinds of false freedom which is due to illusory attractions. Here the will is, at a certain moment, not able to follow a judgement which tells the truth. The will stops at a judgement which shows a value in the pleasure which one derive from an act (eg taking drugs). But the value that is presented is only an apparent one. Thus dependencies are obstacles to true freedom. Freedom of exercise is freedom to accept or reject a particular good. Freedom of specification is freedom to choose between one particular good and another.
Positive freedom means the ability and resources to pursue one’s dreams and ambitions and to be the master of oneself. Negative freedom is the absence of coercion or constraint. It means ‘being free from’, ‘not being bound’, ‘not being determined’ and ‘not being forced’.
True freedom consists then in judging according to the truth, tending towards true values and turning away from false values.
Absence of coercion is intimately related to fundamental human rights, such as, freedom of thought and speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship, freedom of movement, freedom in the use or disposal of one’s property, freedom in the choice of one’s occupation or employer, etc.