The Idea of Freedom
When I was a young man living in Colorado, I often took long hikes in the majestic mountains that surround my home town on all sides but the west, which opens onto the haunting deserts of Utah. As I viewed human life from the mountains and the huge vistas of geological time, I was ecstatic with wonder, and all human concerns, my own included, seemed of little importance. I felt unutterably free.
I pondered the nature of freedom before those hikes, but even more since then. It has long seemed to me that freedom is the essential ingredient in any possibility of a meaningful life.
But what is freedom, anyway? One angle to talk about it is to distinguish positive freedom from the necessary preconditions for the exercise of positive freedom (sometimes called “negative freedoms”).
Assuming, as I do, that we are all unique creations through and through, positive freedom, it seems to me, is the freedom to create or participate in certain types of activities — I call them “matrices of meaning” — that carry the potential to validate our uniqueness. These matrices of meaning are inherently social; a complete hermit could not truly participate in them, except in his imagination. They also inherently encompass an element of selection, competition, chosen-ness. A game or athletic contest is a matrix of meaning, but so are elections, beauty pageants, rivalries for mates, and commercial competition. Matrices of meaning are Darwinian Natural Selection reflected through the amazing prism of our creative and spiritual human consciousness.
The preconditions for the exercise of positive freedom can be categorized in many different ways. To my mind, the following six preconditions help impart clarity. Notably, law is a critical component of the first three.
1. Good Order and the Rule of Law
2. Protection of Individual Rights
3. Economic Prosperity — Freedom from Debilitating Poverty
4. Good Health — Freedom from Disease
5. Freedom from Addiction and Addictive Behavior
6. Freedom from Toxic Personal Relationships
In subsequent blogs, we will explore each of these preconditions for freedom.