The Paradox of Freedom: Exploring the Constraints and Possibilities

Lucas Charbonnier

Lucas Charbonnier

Sep 02, 20235 min read


The Paradox of Freedom: Exploring the Constraints and Possibilities


Freedom is a concept that has intrigued philosophers and thinkers throughout history. It represents the ability to act and think independently, without being subjected to external constraints or oppressive forces. However, the nature of freedom is complex and multifaceted, often leading to debates and philosophical inquiries. In this article, we will delve into the various dimensions of freedom, exploring its relationship with constraint, oppression, and alienation. We will also question the notion of absolute freedom and examine how societal laws and personal choices intersect. Ultimately, we will seek to understand the paradoxical nature of freedom and explore whether it can be proven or if it is a matter of subjective experience.

The Duality of Freedom:

To comprehend the concept of freedom, we must first acknowledge its duality. Freedom exists in contrast to constraint, oppression, servitude, and alienation. It is when external forces or societal norms impose limitations upon individuals that freedom transforms into oppression and servitude. Simone de Beauvoir, in her influential work "The Second Sex," examines how the biological constraint of sex is transformed into societal oppression. This highlights the significance of external constraints and their impact on personal freedom. Furthermore, when individuals internalize these constraints to the point of unconscious submission, it leads to a state of alienation. Therefore, freedom is not merely the absence of physical constraints but also the absence of societal and internalized oppression.

The Quest for Absolute Freedom:

The notion of absolute freedom raises profound questions about the essence of humanity. To conceive human freedom as absolute is to consider it as the very core of human existence. However, such absolute freedom necessitates liberation from the general laws of nature and the determinism imposed by natural laws. This dilemma is a fundamental aspect of existentialist philosophy, as illustrated in Beauvoir's work. Absolute freedom implies that individuals are determined solely by themselves, becoming the creators of their own destiny. Consequently, it establishes a dualism between mind and matter or soul and body, drawing inspiration from Plato's philosophical distinction that devalues the physical body in comparison to the soul.

The Elusive Nature of Free Will:

The concept of free will, often associated with absolute freedom, is a metaphysical notion that proves paradoxical and incomprehensible. While some philosophers argue that absolute freedom can be experienced and known without evidence, it raises doubts about the authenticity of choices made. Could the choices we perceive as free be influenced by unknown causes? Philosopher Spinoza famously denounced the illusion of free will, emphasizing that humans are not impervious to external influences. On the contrary, individuals are conditioned and determined by multiple external factors, making it impossible to completely extricate oneself from these influences. Therefore, freedom is not an inherent aspect of existence but rather a challenging and uncertain conquest, requiring an understanding of the determinisms, causalities, and influences that weigh upon us.

The Symbiosis of Freedom and Law:

Initially, freedom may seem incompatible with constraint, rules, and societal prohibitions. Submitting to rules or collective social norms may appear to diminish personal freedom. However, it is crucial to question whether freedom and law are inherently oppositional. In a well-organized society governed by laws, individuals often experience more significant freedom. Political freedom, as we discuss here, is only possible or guaranteed when it is also limited. The freedom we experience in society is safeguarded by legal boundaries, ensuring that individual freedoms coexist rather than mutually destroy one another. Democratically determined laws in a state of justice enable the obedience to self-prescribed rules, thereby constituting true freedom. This highlights that freedom does not entail doing anything one pleases; instead, acting with determination becomes a significant manifestation of freedom.

Seeking Proof of Freedom:

Can freedom be proven? Proof eliminates any possible doubt and provides certainty. However, when it comes to freedom, two types of proof exist. The first is immediate proof, relying on evidence obtained through the senses – seeing, feeling, or hearing. The second is proof based on logical reasoning and demonstration. The question arises: Is it possible to provide proof that removes all doubts regarding the existence of freedom? Can freedom be exhibited, demonstrated, experienced, or deduced through reasoning? How can one render necessary that which, by definition, eludes necessity and depends solely on itself? Moreover, how can one exhibit or demonstrate something that pertains to the realm of will or mind – internal realities? Are we condemned to believe without proof in a perpetually doubtful freedom? Perhaps instead of seeking proof, we should explore the signs or indications of freedom.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Self-Reflection: To understand and navigate the complexities of freedom, engage in self-reflection. Question your beliefs, values, and choices, and examine how external influences shape your understanding of freedom. Recognize the potential for internalized oppression and strive to liberate yourself from it.
  • 2. Foster Societal Awareness: Recognize that societal laws and regulations, when democratically determined, can safeguard individual freedoms. Educate yourself about the laws and regulations that govern your society, and actively participate in shaping them to ensure a just and free society.
  • 3. Cultivate Critical Thinking: Develop the ability to analyze and evaluate the concept of freedom critically. Question the notion of absolute freedom and explore different philosophical perspectives. Engage in intellectual discourse and seek diverse viewpoints to expand your understanding of freedom.


The concept of freedom is a profound and multifaceted subject that has captivated human minds for centuries. Understanding the duality of freedom, its relationship with constraint, and the influence of societal laws is essential for comprehending its paradoxical nature. While absolute freedom remains elusive and subjective, we can seek signs and indications of freedom in our choices, actions, and the presence of just laws. By embracing self-reflection, fostering societal awareness, and cultivating critical thinking, we can strive to live lives that embody the essence of freedom, both individually and collectively.


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