Professor Sunni Davis
12 November 2018
The prospect of freedom is an ambiguous term that means different things to different people, countries, and cultures. The idea of freedom has been contested since its conception and its ambiguity has long been used to support varying agendas and ideologies. Though a seemingly simple idea, the varying degrees of what people consider freedom is what makes it such an ambiguous term. Being able to understand an abstract term such as freedom can give a person insight into different perspectives around the world.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of freedom is “the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited”. (“Freedom”) Taking the literal definition into mind and its relation to the real world, the philosophical term of pure freedom does not exist. Looking at freedom outside the venue of politics gives a person insight into why. For example, the human body requires food, water, and sleep in order to maintain itself. This should go without saying that without self-maintenance and nourishment, the body will inevitably die. One can infer from this information that all life are metaphorical slaves to their bodily limitations and that this fundamental prospect alone shows that pure freedom is non-existent. Although freedom does not exist in its purest form, degrees of what people consider freedom exist in free will and politics.
Taking a step back from the literal idea of freedom, freedom can exist in varying degrees that depends on the perception of an individual, group, or culture. When most people think of freedom, the first thing that comes to mind is the individual rights of a people that are established through law. What most people consider freedom is determined through their respective governments which vary widely from country to country. An example of varying degrees of freedom would be the right to free speech. Countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have laws in place that reserve the right for freedom of speech to an extent. On the other hand, countries such as China, Cuba, and Syria have heavily censored media and laws that protect dissenting speech against the government. Freedom House conducted research that show that 45% of countries are considered free, 30 percent are considered free, and 25 percent are considered not free. (2018) Despite this, the concept of freedom relates to a sociological perspective. The idea varies among different cultures and the way people view their own freedom is based on how they were socialized into society. People who reside in countries like China may be content with the amount of freedom they possess, but a citizen from a country such as the United States would perceive China to have very little freedoms and find the conditions of their freedoms unacceptable. Understanding how freedom is perceived by different groups and cultures provides deeper insight into such a varying and abstract idea.
The concept of freedom and the way it relates to real-world issues can give insight on how such an ambiguous term is turned into a concrete idea. A prime example of the restriction of physical freedoms in United States history would be slavery. This example relates to what one considers the most basic restriction of freedom. Another example of a real-world application of freedom would be women’s and African American suffrage rights in the United States. Although this isn’t a tangible freedom, this relates to the idea that all people regardless of gender or race should have equal voting rights. Americans in the present day have a different view about their current status of freedom, a survey found that “Few Americans think that they have true freedom of speech today and think that the country is too politically correct.” (“28% Think Americans Have True Freedom of Speech”) One can infer that that even though America has long prided themselves on freedom, a minority percentage of people believe they have freedom of speech. A look inside real-world applications makes the prospect of freedom seem like a concrete idea, but the varying perceptions of it make it ambiguous in nature.
Freedom cannot fully exist in this world as its purest abstract form since it has the connotation of both positive and negative actions within its definition. Although western countries mostly see freedom as a positive concept, there are other cultures and countries that see freedom as a negative concept that violates their ideologies or religious beliefs. Defining such an abstract term as freedom can be difficult due to its ambiguity, but looking at the different perceptions of individuals, cultures, and countries give you an idea of how differently it is viewed across the world.
“Freedom.” Cambridge Dictionary, www.dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/freedom. Accessed 12 November 2018.
“Freedom in the World 2018.” Freedom House, www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2018. Accessed 12 November 2018.
“Just 28% Think Americans Have True Freedom of Speech Today.” Rasmussen Reports, 22 Aug. 2017, www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/august_2017/just_28_think_americans_have_true_freedom_of_speech_today.