The nature of human freedom entails the totality of man’s whole life. Human freedom has to do with the freedom of one’s will, which is the freedom of man to choose and act by following his path through life freely by exercising his ‘freedom’) (Morrison, 1997). But this perspective has not been without much debate and controversy by both philosophers and theologians.
The purpose of this paper intends to look at the concept of human freedom in relation to the society. In this regard, this paper seeks to investigate how society defines human freedom? What other social categories are affected (directly or indirectly) by human freedom? How society has evolved in regard to human freedom? And what can be done to improve human freedom?
Human freedom has largely been defined in terms of the absence of external factors that may limit a person’s free will such as deportations and dictatorships by rulers among other factors.
But it is also thought that human freedom does not necessarily rely on external constraints, for instance some philosophers have argued against the concept of ‘free will’, by saying that man is only a victim of ‘his own being’ (Morrison, 1997)). In other words, that the very nature of man, his instincts, for instance, limits his ‘freedom’; that every now and then he has to answer to his nature.
But Rousseau refutes the argument that man unreservedly answers to his instincts as he argues that unlike animals, man can override his instincts (Morrison, 1997). For example, one may forgo a meal while playing a video game in spite of being hungry. This is an appendage of a philosophical debate as to whether individual ‘freedom’ really exist pe se.
The argument is that one’s choices affect the people in the world in which he lives as much as the behaviors of those around him affect him/her. Thus, no person can claim ‘freedom’ that is free of the society in which they live given that the society defines and influences to an extent man’s freedom and the scope of that freedom.
How society defines human freedom
The term ‘society’ already implies a group of people, in this case, it refers to people including organizations living under mutual agreement: explicit (such as legal law) or implicit (such as ethical & moral law) (Fermi, 2004). Each of these members of society is obliged to live by the components of that mutual agreement.
Society, therefore, is bigger than the individual as it overrides the instinctual response of the individual, who is then expected to practice a certain degree of reservation in meeting his/her needs in such a way that one is able to abide by the acceptable standards of the society.
So far the United Nations has attempted to create a set of laws that can be used to govern the whole human society although the micro-societies (states, for instance) play the main role in defining the scope of human freedom. The definition of human freedom varies depending on the defining culture and political ideology such as Nazism, Socialism, fascism, Communism and Conservatism (Fermi, 2004).
Unfortunately, it is not possible to say which one of these variants of human freedom is the right one (Fermi, 2004) as they all work in their own respective ways to define the concept of freedom.
But this is not to say that, in a society, the individual ceases to exist. The individual is still protected under the natural law, which champions the individual’s basic human rights and liberty; this in fact, forms the core of democracy in the world today.
Limitless freedom, it is argued, is untenable in a society that is peaceful and orderly, still when it comes to the law, some of the democratic rights are limited. Liberty, in its entirety (civil, natural, personal, and political liberties) when defined under the law carries with it certain limits.
That as much as an individual has these rights and liberties, one can only go as far as the law permits, and since the law is defined by the political nature of a specific society, it can be argued that the law while it champions human freedom, equally restricts it as well.
The other social categories that may be affected by human freedom
Human freedom seems to be the central social issue and the other social aspects are either a reflection or an extension of human freedom. As we have seen so far, human freedom is defined by the prevailing political circumstances which further define the legal framework that is adopted.
Depending on the relationship between state and religion (for instance, the unification of religion and the state as in Iran and separation of the two as was the case in Ibrahim’s Tunisia) individual’s freedom is affected in one way or another.
Hinduism, for instance through its belief in the caste system, would seek to justify poverty for certain people and thereby hinder social mobility. Additionally, societies in which women are seen as nothing more than caretakers of families would hinder their access to formal education which impacts on their freedom.
How society has changed in regard to human freedom
Like any other social aspect, how human freedom is regarded in any society has evolved. It can largely be argued that struggle for human freedom has changed from an individual’s materialistic wishes to a more global approach to freedom for minority groups.
For example, feminism is fighting for women’s rights of choice, formal education, job opportunities, from domestic violence and female genital mutilation among other rights. Currently, there is an increasing recognition and empowerment of disabled people; these, among other activities are a reflection of the global call for democracy which requires the acknowledgement and respect of all humans and their fundamental rights.
This is attributed to technological changes, group behavior, social conflict, social trade-offs and global interdependence among others. All these have contributed to the globalization of the world which has increased the call for a certain degree of homogeneity in social behavior as the culture of nations has come to mean transformation of other nations as well in regard to human freedom.
Conclusion; how society can improve human freedom
There is need for further research on how to improve human freedom; in this regard motivational psychologists can help by diagnosing problems, setting moderate goals and applying the relevant behavioral technology to promote and research the concept of human freedom further.
This has worked in certain places for instance, there’s evidence that motivational technology has helped control certain serious diseases, facilitate compensatory education, provide channels for assessing the benefits of higher education, facilitates effective management of complex initiatives and has contributed in raising the living standards of the poor (McClelland, 1978). Besides these, there are also other means of improving human freedom which can be implemented.
Fermi, F. (2004). Freedom and the Human Being. Retrieved from https://www.monografias.com/trabajos26/freedom/freedom.shtml
McClelland, D., (1978). Managing Motivation to Expand Human Freedom. American Psychologist, 33 (3), pp. 201-210.
Morrison, J., (1997). What is Human Freedom. Retrieved from http://www.jasonmorrison.net/content/1997/what-is-human-freedom/