Is there a statement more likely to provoke consternation from people than to submit that there is no such thing as freedom? I think not. So why suggest it? Here is Fromm’s quote “Freedom is not something we have; there is no such thing as freedom. Freedom is a quality of our personality; freedom is always a question of increasing the freedom one has or decreasing it”. Free to be ourselves, he says, hmm. In another statement from the same book we are told, “if you are an apple tree, you become a good apple tree; if you are a strawberry you become a good strawberry.
If we are to follow his reasoning then we must conclude that the apple tree has lots of freedom; to be an apple tree. Likewise the strawberry has lots of freedom; to be a strawberry. Now many will argue and convincingly so that apples and strawberries; comprised of 56 chromosomes, simple creatures that they are cannot be compared to the complex, genetically sophisticated conscious human beings that we are who are comprised of 46 chromosomes.
Freedom by this definition means that we have full control over the things that we choose to do. We do things an act of our own volition which is not affected by any constraints, prior determinants or pre-existing causes. our daily experiences and common sense will confirm that this is simply not true, i.e. we do not have freedom as defined above. Perhaps our understanding of the word freedom will be clearer if we take a look at the workings of a constitution that underpins a nation’s legal system.
A democratic constitution will not state that each of us is free, what it says is that we have the right to certain freedoms which the constitution is supposed to protect; freedom from oppression and freedom to speak, as examples. These freedoms, however, are rights that must be balanced with the freedoms and rights of others. Again we do not have freedom as defined above; we are simply part of a system of rules that gives us certain rights referred to as freedoms.
The Declaration of Independence, one of the precursors to the current constitution of the United States, as an example, suggests that each citizen has unalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We must assume that he is trying to communicate something of importance and is not being flippant with his words. So let’s talk for a moment about this word freedom. Let’s try and understand it in a wider context before we home in on the psychological aspects.
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