The concept of freedom has been a cause of discussion ever since the rise of humanity. In general, I think that yes, we are free since we are always responsible for the decisions that we make or do not make. In a sense, we choose our destiny, but we do it to the best of our understanding of our needs and motives. However, I also think that we are free only to a certain degree, and there are serious limitations to our freedom that are related to several factors.
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For example, psychoanalysis states from the beginning that we all have a contradicting nature. Our internal contradictions – such as between reason and feelings, desires and duty, the search for freedom, and the desire for security – often interfere with making choices. Our psyche is always looking for a compromise – and it is good if it finds the best possible one. At the same time, the consciousness often remains in the dark about the motives of our behavior. In the depths of any individual’s personality, there are desires, impulses, and motives that, while remaining unconscious, nevertheless influence our choice.
Most philosophers assume that there is a close connection between the concept of free will and the concept of moral responsibility. Thus, any act of free will requires understanding and acceptance of its moral responsibility. Moreover, some scholars distinguish between freedom of action and free will because our success in achieving our goals depends in part on factors that are completely outside our control. Since the presence or absence of such conditions is usually outside our area of responsibility, it seems that our main subjects of responsibility are our choices.
In my opinion, the choices that we consciously make constitute the majority of our freedom due to the fact that, while still affected by our subconsciousness, they are still determined by our will and needs. Cottingham (2021) adds that “knowledge involves a kind of fusion of intuitions on one hand, and the concepts of the understanding on the other.” (p. 43). Thus, we are free to a degree where we can affect these needs and our will with our understanding of current conditions and knowledge from sensory perception without harming ourselves or others.
Cottingham, J. (2021). Western philosophy: An anthology. Wiley/Blackwell.