Freedom is good, right? Who could possibly deny that freedom is something everyone should aim to? The free world, the one simple value revolutionaries are willing to die for.
If I’d ask you, what does it mean to be free, do you have a good answer? If not, how can you possibly claim that you are a free man or woman?
Freedom is the core subject of Epictetus writings. Not strange at all, given his condition of slavery. Who would be better to talk about the subject than him, knowing it first-hand?
Our master is anyone (or anything I might add) who has the power to implement or prevent the things that we want or don’t want. Whoever wants to be free, therefore, should wish for nothing or avoid nothing that is up to other people. Failing that, one is bound to be a slave. Epictetus
The only truly free man, according to the Stoics, is the philosopher. Hard claim isn’t it? Any knowledgeable person is a slave then, you can only be free through philosophy. And why, precisely, is that? Why do only philosophers are granted the beautiful gift of freedom?
Two types of freedom.
Negative freedom is,roughly, a matter of which doors lie open to you, it is concerned exclusively with opportunities;positive freedom is a question of whether or not you can go through the doors,whether you are master of your life. Pravin Raj (original idea by Isaiah Berlin, Two concepts of Liberty)
The free person knows his choices and knows his alternatives, he has the knowledge of what freedom truly entails, therefore he is wise.
A slave-minded person will judge all the possibilities and alternatives he has and get mad because he is not free to choose anything he likes, this is negative freedom, the freedom you do not have control upon, therefore he will always be a slave to circumstance.
This reminds me of Erich Fromm:
“Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows ‘what he wants,’ while he actually wants what he is supposed to want. In order to accept this it is necessary to realize that to know what one really wants is not comparatively easy, as most people think, but one of the most difficult problems any human being has to solve. It is a task we frantically try to avoid by accepting ready-made goals as though they were our own.”
― Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom
Isn’t this our predicament? Being free is not for the faint-hearted. A free person must develop independent thinking, he must be free entirely.
This is why courage is one of the stoic cardinal virtues, you will need courage if you are willing to be a free man.
“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”
Are you willing to be free? The path to freedom begins inside and ends inside, where you have control. Practice, practice, practice. Know the difference between what is under your direct control and what is not, this is the first step for living a stoic life, and the first step to achieving freedom.
Are you ready to be free?
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