Even a kid
has a clue about what freedom is, but to understand
all its aspects at once is impossible.
The concept of freedom is abstract and to understand
what it is, you can best compare freedom to a "hole",
in the wall. A hole in itself is nothing, but it is
determined by its surroundings. If there were nothing
around the hole, there wouldn't even be a hole. So a
hole is determined by what it is not.
Something similar applies to freedom.
This article interprets freedom as a paradox and playfully
links it to other concepts. Beware: freedom is not a
paradox by definition, but interpreting it that way
leads to surprising insights. We use these insights
to reflect on our relationship with animals in a moral
and juridical sense.
Tse (on emptiness)
Thirty spokes meet at a nave;
Because of the hole (empty space) we may use the wheel.
Clay is molded into a vessel;
Because of the hollow we may use the cup.
Walls are built around a hearth;
Because of the doors we may use the house.
Thus distinctions seem to contain,
But their use is to transform.
Therefore: Being gives possession, Non-being gives usefulness.
A paradox is a
tough, but interesting, concept, meaning something that
holds a seeming contradiction.
There are many sayings with a paradoxical character, and
accepting this and its (im)possibilities in turn offers
A well known paradox
is: "be spontaneous". If you follow this recommendation,
your behavior can no longer be called spontaneous. If
you spontaneously decide to do nothing, you are not spontaneous
either. In this case it doesn't matter what you do, you're
always doing it either wrong or right. Whether it actually
is right or wrong cannot be determined.
In the case
of freedom as a paradox the contradiction is that freedom
cannot exist without its counterpart: non-freedom. This
non-freedom may mean:
that you are forced to make choices, otherwise you
cannot go further
that you have to limit
others, otherwise they will affect your freedom
that what freedom is, can sometimes only be explained
by what it is not
is "bound" to this non-freedom. This in itself
offers freedom to the individual. The association with
non-freedom also makes that someone can be dualistic about
freedom. If you find it difficult to bear the responsibility,
you might opt for a non-free life with fewer responsibilities.
has no meaning".
This conclusion may be depressing, you can also regard
it as a basis for a very positive follow-up: you can
give your life any meaning you want; it's your own choice,
it's your own responsibility. You may make mistakes,
but the only one you can blame is yourself. Meaninglessness
as a possibility for assigning meaning is the paradox.
The positive explanation offers equality: no-one is
favored in life because he possesses a trait that may
be more or less valuable in light of a certain meaning
of life. This equality goes for people amongst themselves
(man versus woman, white versus black, poor versus rich,
ill versus healthy, young versus old, etc.), but also
for man and animal. The life of one person cannot be
objectively determined as being more valuable
or more meaningful (than that of another person or an
makes life valuable".
Imagine being immortal, that - whatever you do - you
cannot die. It would offer many possibilities, which
we would all like to try for a while, but if you were
imprisoned or if you got ill, and this imprisonment
or illness would last forever, you would be facing a
very unattractive prospect. The fact that life is finite
makes it bearable for many and ensures that we do our
best to give meaning to our lives and that we act carefully.
Hopefully, that's what we all try, so that we may all
benefit from it.
God does or does not exist" is a matter of faith.
His (or her or its) existence cannot be proven. If you
were able to prove it (with mathematical reasoning), a
lot of freedom in life would immediately be lost. There
are believers who think that freedom is a gift from God
to give life meaning.
Every individual may choose what to accept as truth. You
are not ignorant if you do not accept God's existence
as truth. Intelligence has nothing to do with faith, but
it does offer possibilities of realizing your potential.
"If you have nothing
to lose, you are very rich". The more we amass
in life, the more we have to lose. This is not a plea
for poverty, but if you don't really need it and it doesn't
make you happier, why would you amass things, status,
money etc. around you? The Bible said it: "dust thou
art, and unto dust shalt thou return" and (although
it was meant as a parody) Monty Python in The Life of
Brian: "you came from nothing en you end as nothing,
what did you lose? Nothing!"
Of course we amass things during our lives to make our
lives as pleasant as possible, but owning them should
not give us cause to worry about tomorrow. It shouldn't
affect our freedom.
We could continue like this
with many other paradoxes, but we return now to the relationship
Freedom also extends to animals
and nature. In their culture, people are trying to overcome
nature (to free themselves from the limits of nature),
but the outdoors for example will always attract.
Animals do not worry about paradoxes, about the question
whether life has meaning, whether there is a god, and
only collect matter in the form of food or nesting materials
Many people deny animals their rights
because they think that man is superior to animals. In
itself, a higher rank is no argument
to deny others their rights. Maybe animals even have properties
that people find enviable: loyalty, naturalness, freedom
from worry. An animal doesn't lie, is not arrogant.
Freedom in nature
exists as long as animals stay fit enough to keep ahead
of their attackers. This circumstance keeps nature sharp
and together with the mutation of genes it is the driving
force of evolution: the fittest and most suited to adapt
to changes in the environment persevere the longest and
multiply. Animals that are too slow or get sick, don't
have to suffer long, they will soon die and serve as food
for other animals.
When nature can evolve uninterruptedly man can find a
certain beauty in it and nature can be a source of spiritual
experience. It is precisely in this unspoiled creation
that people experience the touch of a higher being. It
is important to conclude from this and from what was mentioned
earlier that freedom is such a central
theme in creation.
Freedom does not relate well to duty. But
the duty to respect the freedom of others is not an inner
contradiction but a paradoxical characteristic of freedom.
We see no reason to exempt animals from the right to freedom
and its consequences, but only justice.