A Conceptualization of Freedom

A Conceptualization of Freedom

September 11, 2020 0 By aure

Tl;dr: freedom is determined by laws, guaranteed by rights, and enjoyed according to the equation “enjoyed freedom = possible actions x choice to do something.

The Conceptualization of Freedom

I hate to say this, but freedom is relative. The universe is organized around laws (the laws of physics) to which any corpses must abide. Laws are de facto restrictive since they limit what can happen by specifying what cannot. The law of gravity, for example, rules that a particle will attract to itself other particles with a force proportional to the product of their masses (to simplify). That’s law so that always happens.

While this law decreases the possible actions (range of choices) of particles, it also allows them to commit to forming corpses of bigger size when they come together, (which we will speak about in another article). The law of gravity builds some sort of order out of the chaos of motion in the universe.

Freedom is therefore limited by laws. One is free only as much as the minimum established laws allow one to be. If we had to draw freedom, it would be determined by the surface representing the range of actions that aren’t not permitted, as expressed in the image below.

As you can see, the interaction between what can happen and what cannot happen is a zero-sum game. As freedom increases, what is forbidden decreases and the other way around.

Places, situations, or natural states that maximize freedom have a bigger freedom surface, allow for a wider range of actions, and have a restricted surface of not permitted actions.

Mind that this is true whether we are talking about the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, or human laws.

Side note, a right is the opposite of law. While laws restrict freedom, a right guarantees it. Rights are not natural but were invented by humans.

There are no rights in nature, only freedom determined by laws: the laws of nature.

Freedom Is Too Big

As you can see in the image below, the point is rather small compared to the freedom it can enjoy. As such, while freedom is giving the point a number of options to choose from, the point can in fact only choose one. Let’s take motion through space as an example.

As we can see, the point can freely move as long as it stays within the freedom surface (in blue). However, it can only be at one place at a time.

Quite logical, but critical!

While the point can choose where to go, it can only enjoy one place at a time. The point’s right to move to another part of the surface de facto includes his loss of the place where it was standing, should it choose to use that right. This principle is expressed in the images below.

While the blue surface represents where the point could go to, the reality is that the point can only be at one place at a time. As such, the blue surface represents potential places for the point to stand at.

They are nothing more than possibilities that will or will not be realized. It all depends on the point, or to be more specific, on the choice of the point.

Where Choices Enter the Equation

A choice expresses a single course of action that will be undertaken despite the existence of other options. While laws restrict total freedom, choices restrict enjoyed freedom.

By how much? Looking at the precedent image, the enjoyed freedom of the point is equal to the surface it occupies, because it cannot enjoy a place it is not at.

As such, should the rest of the freedom surface disappear while the point is sleeping, the point wouldn’t notice.

Enjoyed freedom and total freedom (we call it possible actions) are two different things and we should consider them as such. Enjoyed freedom is a choice made on possible actions.

Enjoyed freedom = possible actions x choice to do something 


Enjoyed freedom = possible actions/choice to not do things

This equation explains why democracies have so much success and why everyone wants to immigrate there. The bigger possible actions are, the bigger enjoyed freedom will be, even if it is restricted by choices.

A Short Comment on Tastes and Preferences

The number of criteria to make a choice is proportional to the size of possible actions. Should you choose between two coats, you’d take the prettiest one.

Should you choose among fifty coats, you’d take the one that would give you the most value based on appearance, price, comfort, quality, sustainability, etc. The more options we are getting, the harder it is to make a choice.

The Bottom Line

Freedom is relative and constricted by laws and guaranteed by rights. The equation of human freedom is as follows: enjoyed freedom possible actions choice.

Maximizing freedom means minimizing the size, number, and existence of restrictive laws even if the ultimate freedom enjoyed is only as small as the size of the choice (even if mathematically, it makes no sense). Choices are effectuated according to personal tastes and preferences.

This article serves as a basis to discuss why, when pushed to the extreme, freedom becomes slavery.

Photo credits: Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash