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Essays About Freedom: 5 Helpful Examples and 7 Prompts

Freedom seems simple at first; however, it is quite a nuanced topic at a closer glance. If you are writing essays about freedom, read our guide of essay examples and writing prompts.

In a world where we constantly hear about violence, oppression, and war, few things are more important than freedom. It is the ability to act, speak, or think what we want without being controlled or subjected. It can be considered the gateway to achieving our goals, as we can take the necessary steps. 

However, freedom is not always “doing whatever we want.” True freedom means to do what is righteous and reasonable, even if there is the option to do otherwise. Moreover, freedom must come with responsibility; this is why laws are in place to keep society orderly but not too micro-managed, to an extent.

5 Examples of Essays About Freedom

1. essay on “freedom” by pragati ghosh, 2. acceptance is freedom by edmund perry, 3. reflecting on the meaning of freedom by marquita herald.

  • 4.  Authentic Freedom by Wilfred Carlson

5. What are freedom and liberty? by Yasmin Youssef

1. what is freedom, 2. freedom in the contemporary world, 3. is freedom “not free”, 4. moral and ethical issues concerning freedom, 5. freedom vs. security, 6. free speech and hate speech, 7. an experience of freedom.

“Freedom is non denial of our basic rights as humans. Some freedom is specific to the age group that we fall into. A child is free to be loved and cared by parents and other members of family and play around. So this nurturing may be the idea of freedom to a child. Living in a crime free society in safe surroundings may mean freedom to a bit grown up child.”

In her essay, Ghosh briefly describes what freedom means to her. It is the ability to live your life doing what you want. However, she writes that we must keep in mind the dignity and freedom of others. One cannot simply kill and steal from people in the name of freedom; it is not absolute. She also notes that different cultures and age groups have different notions of freedom. Freedom is a beautiful thing, but it must be exercised in moderation. 

“They demonstrate that true freedom is about being accepted, through the scenarios that Ambrose Flack has written for them to endure. In The Strangers That Came to Town, the Duvitches become truly free at the finale of the story. In our own lives, we must ask: what can we do to help others become truly free?”

Perry’s essay discusses freedom in the context of Ambrose Flack’s short story The Strangers That Came to Town : acceptance is the key to being free. When the immigrant Duvitch family moved into a new town, they were not accepted by the community and were deprived of the freedom to live without shame and ridicule. However, when some townspeople reach out, the Duvitches feel empowered and relieved and are no longer afraid to go out and be themselves. 

“Freedom is many things, but those issues that are often in the forefront of conversations these days include the freedom to choose, to be who you truly are, to express yourself and to live your life as you desire so long as you do not hurt or restrict the personal freedom of others. I’ve compiled a collection of powerful quotations on the meaning of freedom to share with you, and if there is a single unifying theme it is that we must remember at all times that, regardless of where you live, freedom is not carved in stone, nor does it come without a price.”

In her short essay, Herald contemplates on freedom and what it truly means. She embraces her freedom and uses it to live her life to the fullest and to teach those around her. She values freedom and closes her essay with a list of quotations on the meaning of freedom, all with something in common: freedom has a price. With our freedom, we must be responsible. You might also be interested in these essays about consumerism .

4.   Authentic Freedom by Wilfred Carlson

“Freedom demands of one, or rather obligates one to concern ourselves with the affairs of the world around us. If you look at the world around a human being, countries where freedom is lacking, the overall population is less concerned with their fellow man, then in a freer society. The same can be said of individuals, the more freedom a human being has, and the more responsible one acts to other, on the whole.”

Carlson writes about freedom from a more religious perspective, saying that it is a right given to us by God. However, authentic freedom is doing what is right and what will help others rather than simply doing what one wants. If freedom were exercised with “doing what we want” in mind, the world would be disorderly. True freedom requires us to care for others and work together to better society. 

“In my opinion, the concepts of freedom and liberty are what makes us moral human beings. They include individual capacities to think, reason, choose and value different situations. It also means taking individual responsibility for ourselves, our decisions and actions. It includes self-governance and self-determination in combination with critical thinking, respect, transparency and tolerance. We should let no stone unturned in the attempt to reach a state of full freedom and liberty, even if it seems unrealistic and utopic.”

Youssef’s essay describes the concepts of freedom and liberty and how they allow us to do what we want without harming others. She notes that respect for others does not always mean agreeing with them. We can disagree, but we should not use our freedom to infringe on that of the people around us. To her, freedom allows us to choose what is good, think critically, and innovate. 

7 Prompts for Essays About Freedom

Essays About Freedom: What is freedom?

Freedom is quite a broad topic and can mean different things to different people. For your essay, define freedom and explain what it means to you. For example, freedom could mean having the right to vote, the right to work, or the right to choose your path in life. Then, discuss how you exercise your freedom based on these definitions and views. 

The world as we know it is constantly changing, and so is the entire concept of freedom. Research the state of freedom in the world today and center your essay on the topic of modern freedom. For example, discuss freedom while still needing to work to pay bills and ask, “Can we truly be free when we cannot choose with the constraints of social norms?” You may compare your situation to the state of freedom in other countries and in the past if you wish. 

A common saying goes like this: “Freedom is not free.” Reflect on this quote and write your essay about what it means to you: how do you understand it? In addition, explain whether you believe it to be true or not, depending on your interpretation. 

Many contemporary issues exemplify both the pros and cons of freedom; for example, slavery shows the worst when freedom is taken away, while gun violence exposes the disadvantages of too much freedom. First, discuss one issue regarding freedom and briefly touch on its causes and effects. Then, be sure to explain how it relates to freedom. 

Some believe that more laws curtail the right to freedom and liberty. In contrast, others believe that freedom and regulation can coexist, saying that freedom must come with the responsibility to ensure a safe and orderly society. Take a stand on this issue and argue for your position, supporting your response with adequate details and credible sources. 

Many people, especially online, have used their freedom of speech to attack others based on race and gender, among other things. Many argue that hate speech is still free and should be protected, while others want it regulated. Is it infringing on freedom? You decide and be sure to support your answer adequately. Include a rebuttal of the opposing viewpoint for a more credible argumentative essay. 

For your essay, you can also reflect on a time you felt free. It could be your first time going out alone, moving into a new house, or even going to another country. How did it make you feel? Reflect on your feelings, particularly your sense of freedom, and explain them in detail. 

Check out our guide packed full of transition words for essays .If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

meaning of freedom essays

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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Freedom Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on freedom.

Freedom is something that everybody has heard of but if you ask for its meaning then everyone will give you different meaning. This is so because everyone has a different opinion about freedom. For some freedom means the freedom of going anywhere they like, for some it means to speak up form themselves, and for some, it is liberty of doing anything they like.

Freedom Essay

Meaning of Freedom

The real meaning of freedom according to books is. Freedom refers to a state of independence where you can do what you like without any restriction by anyone. Moreover, freedom can be called a state of mind where you have the right and freedom of doing what you can think off. Also, you can feel freedom from within.

The Indian Freedom

Indian is a country which was earlier ruled by Britisher and to get rid of these rulers India fight back and earn their freedom. But during this long fight, many people lost their lives and because of the sacrifice of those people and every citizen of the country, India is a free country and the world largest democracy in the world.

Moreover, after independence India become one of those countries who give his citizen some freedom right without and restrictions.

The Indian Freedom Right

India drafted a constitution during the days of struggle with the Britishers and after independence it became applicable. In this constitution, the Indian citizen was given several fundaments right which is applicable to all citizen equally. More importantly, these right are the freedom that the constitution has given to every citizen.

These right are right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion¸ culture and educational right, right to constitutional remedies, right to education. All these right give every freedom that they can’t get in any other country.

Value of Freedom

The real value of anything can only be understood by those who have earned it or who have sacrificed their lives for it. Freedom also means liberalization from oppression. It also means the freedom from racism, from harm, from the opposition, from discrimination and many more things.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Freedom does not mean that you violate others right, it does not mean that you disregard other rights. Moreover, freedom means enchanting the beauty of nature and the environment around us.

The Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is the most common and prominent right that every citizen enjoy. Also, it is important because it is essential for the all-over development of the country.

Moreover, it gives way to open debates that helps in the discussion of thought and ideas that are essential for the growth of society.

Besides, this is the only right that links with all the other rights closely. More importantly, it is essential to express one’s view of his/her view about society and other things.

To conclude, we can say that Freedom is not what we think it is. It is a psychological concept everyone has different views on. Similarly, it has a different value for different people. But freedom links with happiness in a broadway.

FAQs on Freedom

Q.1 What is the true meaning of freedom? A.1 Freedom truly means giving equal opportunity to everyone for liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Q.2 What is freedom of expression means? A.2 Freedom of expression means the freedom to express one’s own ideas and opinions through the medium of writing, speech, and other forms of communication without causing any harm to someone’s reputation.

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‘Freedom’ Means Something Different to Liberals and Conservatives. Here’s How the Definition Split—And Why That Still Matters

Man Wearing "Freedom Now Core" T-Shirt

W e tend to think of freedom as an emancipatory ideal—and with good reason. Throughout history, the desire to be free inspired countless marginalized groups to challenge the rule of political and economic elites. Liberty was the watchword of the Atlantic revolutionaries who, at the end of the 18th century, toppled autocratic kings, arrogant elites and ( in Haiti ) slaveholders, thus putting an end to the Old Regime. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Black civil rights activists and feminists fought for the expansion of democracy in the name of freedom, while populists and progressives struggled to put an end to the economic domination of workers.

While these groups had different objectives and ambitions, sometimes putting them at odds with one another, they all agreed that their main goal—freedom—required enhancing the people’s voice in government. When the late Rep. John Lewis called on Americans to “let freedom ring” , he was drawing on this tradition.

But there is another side to the story of freedom as well. Over the past 250 years, the cry for liberty has also been used by conservatives to defend elite interests. In their view, true freedom is not about collective control over government; it consists in the private enjoyment of one’s life and goods. From this perspective, preserving freedom has little to do with making government accountable to the people. Democratically elected majorities, conservatives point out, pose just as much, or even more of a threat to personal security and individual right—especially the right to property—as rapacious kings or greedy elites. This means that freedom can best be preserved by institutions that curb the power of those majorities, or simply by shrinking the sphere of government as much as possible.

This particular way of thinking about freedom was pioneered in the late 18th century by the defenders of the Old Regime. From the 1770s onward, as revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic rebelled in the name of liberty, a flood of pamphlets, treatises and newspaper articles appeared with titles such as Some Observations On Liberty , Civil Liberty Asserted or On the Liberty of the Citizen . Their authors vehemently denied that the Atlantic Revolutions would bring greater freedom. As, for instance, the Scottish philosopher Adam Ferguson—a staunch opponent of the American Revolution—explained, liberty consisted in the “security of our rights.” And from that perspective, the American colonists already were free, even though they lacked control over the way in which they were governed. As British subjects, they enjoyed “more security than was ever before enjoyed by any people.” This meant that the colonists’ liberty was best preserved by maintaining the status quo; their attempts to govern themselves could only end in anarchy and mob rule.

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In the course of the 19th century this view became widespread among European elites, who continued to vehemently oppose the advent of democracy. Benjamin Constant, one of Europe’s most celebrated political thinkers, rejected the example of the French revolutionaries, arguing that they had confused liberty with “participation in collective power.” Instead, freedom-lovers should look to the British constitution, where hierarchies were firmly entrenched. Here, Constant claimed, freedom, understood as “peaceful enjoyment and private independence,” was perfectly secure—even though less than five percent of British adults could vote. The Hungarian politician Józseph Eötvös, among many others, agreed. Writing in the wake of the brutally suppressed revolutions that rose against several European monarchies in 1848, he complained that the insurgents, battling for manhood suffrage, had confused liberty with “the principle of the people’s supremacy.” But such confusion could only lead to democratic despotism. True liberty—defined by Eötvös as respect for “well-earned rights”—could best be achieved by limiting state power as much as possible, not by democratization.

In the U.S., conservatives were likewise eager to claim that they, and they alone, were the true defenders of freedom. In the 1790s, some of the more extreme Federalists tried to counter the democratic gains of the preceding decade in the name of liberty. In the view of the staunch Federalist Noah Webster, for instance, it was a mistake to think that “to obtain liberty, and establish a free government, nothing was necessary but to get rid of kings, nobles, and priests.” To preserve true freedom—which Webster defined as the peaceful enjoyment of one’s life and property—popular power instead needed to be curbed, preferably by reserving the Senate for the wealthy. Yet such views were slower to gain traction in the United States than in Europe. To Webster’s dismay, overall, his contemporaries believed that freedom could best be preserved by extending democracy rather than by restricting popular control over government.

But by the end of the 19th century, conservative attempts to reclaim the concept of freedom did catch on. The abolition of slavery, rapid industrialization and mass migration from Europe expanded the agricultural and industrial working classes exponentially, as well as giving them greater political agency. This fueled increasing anxiety about popular government among American elites, who now began to claim that “mass democracy” posed a major threat to liberty, notably the right to property. Francis Parkman, scion of a powerful Boston family, was just one of a growing number of statesmen who raised doubts about the wisdom of universal suffrage, as “the masses of the nation … want equality more than they want liberty.”

William Graham Sumner, an influential Yale professor, likewise spoke for many when he warned of the advent of a new, democratic kind of despotism—a danger that could best be avoided by restricting the sphere of government as much as possible. “ Laissez faire ,” or, in blunt English, “mind your own business,” Sumner concluded, was “the doctrine of liberty.”

Being alert to this history can help us to understand why, today, people can use the same word—“freedom”—to mean two very different things. When conservative politicians like Rand Paul and advocacy groups FreedomWorks or the Federalist Society talk about their love of liberty, they usually mean something very different from civil rights activists like John Lewis—and from the revolutionaries, abolitionists and feminists in whose footsteps Lewis walked. Instead, they are channeling 19th century conservatives like Francis Parkman and William Graham Sumner, who believed that freedom is about protecting property rights—if need be, by obstructing democracy. Hundreds of years later, those two competing views of freedom remain largely unreconcilable.

meaning of freedom essays

Annelien de Dijn is the author of Freedom: An Unruly History , available now from Harvard University Press.

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23 of 25 students admit chatgpt use after professor’s amnesty offer, what is freedom definition essay example.

Lesley J. Vos

The given prompt: How do political, personal, and societal freedoms differ?

Freedom is a word that resonates deeply with most of us, often evoking powerful emotions. It is a term, however, that means different things in different contexts. From the vast political landscapes to the intimate corners of our minds, freedom has distinct implications. To grasp its true essence, let’s traverse the realms of political, personal, and societal freedoms.

Imagine living in a place where voicing your opinions could lead to imprisonment, or worse. Frightening, isn’t it? That’s where political freedom, or the lack of it, comes into play. Rooted in a country’s governance and laws, political freedom embodies the rights and liberties of its citizens. It speaks of democracy, of the right to vote, voice opinions, and participate in civic duties. This freedom ensures that power remains in the hands of the people and that leaders act in the nation’s best interest.

Shift the lens to a more individual perspective, and we encounter personal freedom. It’s about the choices we make daily, shaping our lives and destinies. Do you pursue a passion or follow a well-trodden path? Do you voice your disagreement in a conversation or remain silent? Personal freedom revolves around such choices. It’s the autonomy to think, act, and live according to one’s beliefs without undue external influence. This freedom lets us be authentic, honoring our true selves.

Now, imagine living in a society that dictates what you should wear, whom you should marry, or which profession you should choose. Sounds restrictive, right? Societal freedom is the antidote. It focuses on a community’s collective rights, ensuring that cultural norms or societal pressures do not stifle individual choices. This freedom ensures a harmonious coexistence, celebrating diversity and promoting inclusivity.

While these freedoms might seem distinct, they often intertwine and influence each other. A country that values political freedom is more likely to uphold societal and personal freedoms. Similarly, a society that cherishes diverse beliefs will likely advocate for both personal and political freedoms.

However, with freedom comes responsibility. Just as a bird must know its strength to fly high, individuals and societies must understand the boundaries of freedom. It should empower, not harm. It should uplift, not suppress. True freedom respects and values the freedoms of others.

In conclusion, while freedom is a universal aspiration, its interpretation varies across political, personal, and societal domains. It’s the right to vote, the power to choose, and the ability to coexist. In understanding these nuances, we appreciate the true depth of freedom. It’s a reminder that while freedom is a right, it’s also a privilege, one that we must cherish, nurture, and protect. Whether it’s in the ballot box, the choices we make, or the societies we build, freedom is the foundation of progress, happiness, and harmony.

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Positive and Negative Liberty

Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints. One has negative liberty to the extent that actions are available to one in this negative sense. Positive liberty is the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes. While negative liberty is usually attributed to individual agents, positive liberty is sometimes attributed to collectivities, or to individuals considered primarily as members of given collectivities.

The idea of distinguishing between a negative and a positive sense of the term ‘liberty’ goes back at least to Kant, and was examined and defended in depth by Isaiah Berlin in the 1950s and ’60s. Discussions about positive and negative liberty normally take place within the context of political and social philosophy. They are distinct from, though sometimes related to, philosophical discussions about free will . Work on the nature of positive liberty often overlaps, however, with work on the nature of autonomy .

As Berlin showed, negative and positive liberty are not merely two distinct kinds of liberty; they can be seen as rival, incompatible interpretations of a single political ideal. Since few people claim to be against liberty, the way this term is interpreted and defined can have important political implications. Political liberalism tends to presuppose a negative definition of liberty: liberals generally claim that if one favors individual liberty one should place strong limitations on the activities of the state. Critics of liberalism often contest this implication by contesting the negative definition of liberty: they argue that the pursuit of liberty understood as self-realization or as self-determination (whether of the individual or of the collectivity) can require state intervention of a kind not normally allowed by liberals.

Many authors prefer to talk of positive and negative freedom . This is only a difference of style, and the terms ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ are normally used interchangeably by political and social philosophers. Although some attempts have been made to distinguish between liberty and freedom (Pitkin 1988; Williams 2001; Dworkin 2011), generally speaking these have not caught on. Neither can they be translated into other European languages, which contain only the one term, of either Latin or Germanic origin (e.g. liberté, Freiheit), where English contains both.

1. Two Concepts of Liberty

2. the paradox of positive liberty, 3.1 positive liberty as content-neutral, 3.2 republican liberty, 4. one concept of liberty: freedom as a triadic relation, 5. the analysis of constraints: their types and their sources, 6. the concept of overall freedom, 7. is the distinction still useful, introductory works, other works, other internet resources, related entries.

Imagine you are driving a car through town, and you come to a fork in the road. You turn left, but no one was forcing you to go one way or the other. Next you come to a crossroads. You turn right, but no one was preventing you from going left or straight on. There is no traffic to speak of and there are no diversions or police roadblocks. So you seem, as a driver, to be completely free. But this picture of your situation might change quite dramatically if we consider that the reason you went left and then right is that you’re addicted to cigarettes and you’re desperate to get to the tobacconists before it closes. Rather than driving , you feel you are being driven , as your urge to smoke leads you uncontrollably to turn the wheel first to the left and then to the right. Moreover, you’re perfectly aware that your turning right at the crossroads means you’ll probably miss a train that was to take you to an appointment you care about very much. You long to be free of this irrational desire that is not only threatening your longevity but is also stopping you right now from doing what you think you ought to be doing.

This story gives us two contrasting ways of thinking of liberty. On the one hand, one can think of liberty as the absence of obstacles external to the agent. You are free if no one is stopping you from doing whatever you might want to do. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be free. On the other hand, one can think of liberty as the presence of control on the part of the agent. To be free, you must be self-determined, which is to say that you must be able to control your own destiny in your own interests. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be unfree: you are not in control of your own destiny, as you are failing to control a passion that you yourself would rather be rid of and which is preventing you from realizing what you recognize to be your true interests. One might say that while on the first view liberty is simply about how many doors are open to the agent, on the second view it is more about going through the right doors for the right reasons.

In a famous essay first published in 1958, Isaiah Berlin called these two concepts of liberty negative and positive respectively (Berlin 1969). [ 1 ] The reason for using these labels is that in the first case liberty seems to be a mere absence of something (i.e. of obstacles, barriers, constraints or interference from others), whereas in the second case it seems to require the presence of something (i.e. of control, self-mastery, self-determination or self-realization). In Berlin’s words, we use the negative concept of liberty in attempting to answer the question “What is the area within which the subject — a person or group of persons — is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?”, whereas we use the positive concept in attempting to answer the question “What, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than that?” (1969, pp. 121–22).

It is useful to think of the difference between the two concepts in terms of the difference between factors that are external and factors that are internal to the agent. While theorists of negative freedom are primarily interested in the degree to which individuals or groups suffer interference from external bodies, theorists of positive freedom are more attentive to the internal factors affecting the degree to which individuals or groups act autonomously. Given this difference, one might be tempted to think that a political philosopher should concentrate exclusively on negative freedom, a concern with positive freedom being more relevant to psychology or individual morality than to political and social institutions. This, however, would be premature, for among the most hotly debated issues in political philosophy are the following: Is the positive concept of freedom a political concept? Can individuals or groups achieve positive freedom through political action? Is it possible for the state to promote the positive freedom of citizens on their behalf? And if so, is it desirable for the state to do so? The classic texts in the history of western political thought are divided over how these questions should be answered: theorists in the classical liberal tradition, like Benjamin Constant, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Herbert Spencer, and J.S. Mill, are typically classed as answering ‘no’ and therefore as defending a negative concept of political freedom; theorists that are critical of this tradition, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx and T.H. Green, are typically classed as answering ‘yes’ and as defending a positive concept of political freedom.

In its political form, positive freedom has often been thought of as necessarily achieved through a collectivity. Perhaps the clearest case is that of Rousseau’s theory of freedom, according to which individual freedom is achieved through participation in the process whereby one’s community exercises collective control over its own affairs in accordance with the ‘general will’. Put in the simplest terms, one might say that a democratic society is a free society because it is a self-determined society, and that a member of that society is free to the extent that he or she participates in its democratic process. But there are also individualist applications of the concept of positive freedom. For example, it is sometimes said that a government should aim actively to create the conditions necessary for individuals to be self-sufficient or to achieve self-realization. The welfare state has sometimes been defended on this basis, as has the idea of a universal basic income. The negative concept of freedom, on the other hand, is most commonly assumed in liberal defences of the constitutional liberties typical of liberal-democratic societies, such as freedom of movement, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and in arguments against paternalist or moralist state intervention. It is also often invoked in defences of the right to private property. This said, some philosophers have contested the claim that private property necessarily enhances negative liberty (Cohen 1995, 2006), and still others have tried to show that negative liberty can ground a form of egalitarianism (Steiner 1994).

After Berlin, the most widely cited and best developed analyses of the negative concept of liberty include Hayek (1960), Day (1971), Oppenheim (1981), Miller (1983) and Steiner (1994). Among the most prominent contemporary analyses of the positive concept of liberty are Milne (1968), Gibbs (1976), C. Taylor (1979) and Christman (1991, 2005).

Many liberals, including Berlin, have suggested that the positive concept of liberty carries with it a danger of authoritarianism. Consider the fate of a permanent and oppressed minority. Because the members of this minority participate in a democratic process characterized by majority rule, they might be said to be free on the grounds that they are members of a society exercising self-control over its own affairs. But they are oppressed, and so are surely unfree. Moreover, it is not necessary to see a society as democratic in order to see it as self-controlled; one might instead adopt an organic conception of society, according to which the collectivity is to be thought of as a living organism, and one might believe that this organism will only act rationally, will only be in control of itself, when its various parts are brought into line with some rational plan devised by its wise governors (who, to extend the metaphor, might be thought of as the organism’s brain). In this case, even the majority might be oppressed in the name of liberty.

Such justifications of oppression in the name of liberty are no mere products of the liberal imagination, for there are notorious historical examples of their endorsement by authoritarian political leaders. Berlin, himself a liberal and writing during the cold war, was clearly moved by the way in which the apparently noble ideal of freedom as self-mastery or self-realization had been twisted and distorted by the totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century — most notably those of the Soviet Union — so as to claim that they, rather than the liberal West, were the true champions of freedom. The slippery slope towards this paradoxical conclusion begins, according to Berlin, with the idea of a divided self. To illustrate: the smoker in our story provides a clear example of a divided self, for she is both a self that desires to get to an appointment and a self that desires to get to the tobacconists, and these two desires are in conflict. We can now enrich this story in a plausible way by adding that one of these selves — the keeper of appointments — is superior to the other: the self that is a keeper of appointments is thus a ‘higher’ self, and the self that is a smoker is a ‘lower’ self. The higher self is the rational, reflecting self, the self that is capable of moral action and of taking responsibility for what she does. This is the true self, for rational reflection and moral responsibility are the features of humans that mark them off from other animals. The lower self, on the other hand, is the self of the passions, of unreflecting desires and irrational impulses. One is free, then, when one’s higher, rational self is in control and one is not a slave to one’s passions or to one’s merely empirical self. The next step down the slippery slope consists in pointing out that some individuals are more rational than others, and can therefore know best what is in their and others’ rational interests. This allows them to say that by forcing people less rational than themselves to do the rational thing and thus to realize their true selves, they are in fact liberating them from their merely empirical desires. Occasionally, Berlin says, the defender of positive freedom will take an additional step that consists in conceiving of the self as wider than the individual and as represented by an organic social whole — “a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn”. The true interests of the individual are to be identified with the interests of this whole, and individuals can and should be coerced into fulfilling these interests, for they would not resist coercion if they were as rational and wise as their coercers. “Once I take this view”, Berlin says, “I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf, of their ‘real’ selves, in the secure knowledge that whatever is the true goal of man ... must be identical with his freedom” (Berlin 1969, pp. 132–33).

Those in the negative camp try to cut off this line of reasoning at the first step, by denying that there is any necessary relation between one’s freedom and one’s desires. Since one is free to the extent that one is externally unprevented from doing things, they say, one can be free to do what one does not desire to do. If being free meant being unprevented from realizing one’s desires, then one could, again paradoxically, reduce one’s unfreedom by coming to desire fewer of the things one is unfree to do. One could become free simply by contenting oneself with one’s situation. A perfectly contented slave is perfectly free to realize all of her desires. Nevertheless, we tend to think of slavery as the opposite of freedom. More generally, freedom is not to be confused with happiness, for in logical terms there is nothing to stop a free person from being unhappy or an unfree person from being happy. The happy person might feel free, but whether they are free is another matter (Day, 1970). Negative theorists of freedom therefore tend to say not that having freedom means being unprevented from doing as one desires, but that it means being unprevented from doing whatever one might desire to do (Steiner 1994. Cf. Van Parijs 1995; Sugden 2006).

Some theorists of positive freedom bite the bullet and say that the contented slave is indeed free — that in order to be free the individual must learn, not so much to dominate certain merely empirical desires, but to rid herself of them. She must, in other words, remove as many of her desires as possible. As Berlin puts it, if I have a wounded leg ‘there are two methods of freeing myself from pain. One is to heal the wound. But if the cure is too difficult or uncertain, there is another method. I can get rid of the wound by cutting off my leg’ (1969, pp. 135–36). This is the strategy of liberation adopted by ascetics, stoics and Buddhist sages. It involves a ‘retreat into an inner citadel’ — a soul or a purely noumenal self — in which the individual is immune to any outside forces. But this state, even if it can be achieved, is not one that liberals would want to call one of freedom, for it again risks masking important forms of oppression. It is, after all, often in coming to terms with excessive external limitations in society that individuals retreat into themselves, pretending to themselves that they do not really desire the worldly goods or pleasures they have been denied. Moreover, the removal of desires may also be an effect of outside forces, such as brainwashing, which we should hardly want to call a realization of freedom.

Because the concept of negative freedom concentrates on the external sphere in which individuals interact, it seems to provide a better guarantee against the dangers of paternalism and authoritarianism perceived by Berlin. To promote negative freedom is to promote the existence of a sphere of action within which the individual is sovereign, and within which she can pursue her own projects subject only to the constraint that she respect the spheres of others. Humboldt and Mill, both advocates of negative freedom, compared the development of an individual to that of a plant: individuals, like plants, must be allowed to grow, in the sense of developing their own faculties to the full and according to their own inner logic. Personal growth is something that cannot be imposed from without, but must come from within the individual.

3. Two Attempts to Create a Third Way

Critics, however, have objected that the ideal described by Humboldt and Mill looks much more like a positive concept of liberty than a negative one. Positive liberty consists, they say, in exactly this growth of the individual: the free individual is one that develops, determines and changes her own desires and interests autonomously and from within. This is not liberty as the mere absence of obstacles, but liberty as autonomy or self-realization. Why should the mere absence of state interference be thought to guarantee such growth? Is there not some third way between the extremes of totalitarianism and the minimal state of the classical liberals — some non-paternalist, non-authoritarian means by which positive liberty in the above sense can be actively promoted?

Much of the more recent work on positive liberty has been motivated by a dissatisfaction with the ideal of negative liberty combined with an awareness of the possible abuses of the positive concept so forcefully exposed by Berlin. John Christman (1991, 2005, 2009, 2013), for example, has argued that positive liberty concerns the ways in which desires are formed — whether as a result of rational reflection on all the options available, or as a result of pressure, manipulation or ignorance. What it does not regard, he says, is the content of an individual’s desires. The promotion of positive freedom need not therefore involve the claim that there is only one right answer to the question of how a person should live, nor need it allow, or even be compatible with, a society forcing its members into given patterns of behavior. Take the example of a Muslim woman who claims to espouse the fundamentalist doctrines generally followed by her family and the community in which she lives. On Christman’s account, this person is positively unfree if her desire to conform was somehow oppressively imposed upon her through indoctrination, manipulation or deceit. She is positively free, on the other hand, if she arrived at her desire to conform while aware of other reasonable options and she weighed and assessed these other options rationally. Even if this woman seems to have a preference for subservient behavior, there is nothing necessarily freedom-enhancing or freedom-restricting about her having the desires she has, since freedom regards not the content of these desires but their mode of formation. On this view, forcing her to do certain things rather than others can never make her more free, and Berlin’s paradox of positive freedom would seem to have been avoided.

This more ‘procedural’ account of positive liberty allows us to point to kinds of internal constraint that seem too fall off the radar if we adopt only negative concept. For example, some radical political theorists believe it can help us to make sense of forms of oppression and structural injustice that cannot be traced to overt acts of prevention or coercion. On the one hand, in agreement with Berlin, we should recognize the dangers of that come with promoting the values or interests of a person’s ‘true self’ in opposition to what they manifestly desire. Thus, the procedural account avoids all reference to a ‘true self’. On the other, we should recognize that people’s actual selves are inevitably formed in a social context and that their values and senses of identity (for example, in terms of gender or race or nationality) are shaped by cultural influences. In this sense, the self is ‘socially constructed’, and this social construction can itself occur in oppressive ways. The challenge, then, is to show how a person’s values can be thus shaped but without the kind of oppressive imposition or manipulation that comes not only from political coercion but also, more subtly, from practices or institutions that stigmatize or marginalize certain identities or that attach costs to the endorsement of values deviating from acceptable norms, for these kinds of imposition or manipulation can be just another way of promoting a substantive ideal of the self. And this was exactly the danger against which Berlin was warning, except that the danger is less visible and can be created unintentionally (Christman 2013, 2015, 2021; Hirschmann 2003, 2013; Coole 2013).

While this theory of positive freedom undoubtedly provides a tool for criticizing the limiting effects of certain practices and institutions in contemporary liberal societies, it remains to be seen what kinds of political action can be pursued in order to promote content-neutral positive liberty without encroaching on any individual’s rightful sphere of negative liberty. Thus, the potential conflict between the two ideals of negative and positive freedom might survive Christman’s alternative analysis, albeit in a milder form. Even if we rule out coercing individuals into specific patterns of behavior, a state interested in promoting content-neutral positive liberty might still have considerable space for intervention aimed at ‘public enlightenment’, perhaps subsidizing some kinds of activities (in order to encourage a plurality of genuine options) and financing such intervention through taxation. Liberals might criticize this kind of intervention on anti-paternalist grounds, objecting that such measures will require the state to use resources in ways that the supposedly heteronomous individuals, if left to themselves, might have chosen to spend in other ways. In other words, even in its content-neutral form, the ideal of positive freedom might still conflict with the liberal idea of respect for persons, one interpretation of which involves viewing individuals from the outside and taking their choices at face value. From a liberal point of view, the blindness to internal constraints can be intentional (Carter 2011a). Some liberals will make an exception to this restriction on state intervention in the case of the education of children, in such a way as to provide for the active cultivation of open minds and rational reflection. Even here, however, other liberals will object that the right to negative liberty includes the right to decide how one’s children should be educated.

Is it necessary to refer to internal constraints in order to make sense of the phenomena of oppression and structural injustice? Some might contest this view, or say that it is true only up to a point, for there are at least two reasons for thinking that the oppressed are lacking in negative liberty. First, while Berlin himself equated economic and social disadvantages with natural disabilities, claiming that neither represented constraints on negative liberty but only on personal abilities, many theorists of negative liberty disagree: if I lack the money to buy a jacket from a clothes shop, then any attempt on my part to carry away the jacket is likely to meet with preventive actions or punishment on the part of the shop keeper or the agents of the state. This is a case of interpersonal interference, not merely of personal inability. In the normal circumstances of a market economy, purchasing power is indeed a very reliable indicator of how far other people will stop you from doing certain things if you try. It is therefore strongly correlated with degrees of negative freedom (Cohen 1995, 2011; Waldron 1993; Carter 2007; Grant 2013). Thus, while the promotion of content-neutral positive liberty might imply the transfer of certain kinds of resources to members of disadvantaged groups, the same might be true of the promotion of negative liberty. Second, the negative concept of freedom can be applied directly to disadvantaged groups as well as to their individual members. Some social structures may be such as to tolerate the liberation of only a limited number of members of a given group. G.A. Cohen famously focused on the case proletarians who can escape their condition by successfully setting up a business of their own though a mixture of hard work and luck. In such cases, while each individual member of the disadvantaged group might be negatively free in the sense of being unprevented from choosing the path of liberation, the freedom of the individual is conditional on the unfreedom of the majority of the rest of the group, since not all can escape in this way. Each individual member of the class therefore partakes in a form of collective negative unfreedom (Cohen 1988, 2006; for discussion see Mason 1996; Hindricks 2008; Grant 2013; Schmidt 2020).

Another increasingly influential group of philosophers has rejected both the negative and the positive conception, claiming that liberty is not merely the enjoyment of a sphere of non-interference but the enjoyment of certain conditions in which such non-interference is guaranteed (Pettit 1997, 2001, 2014; Skinner 1998, 2002; Weinstock and Nadeau 2004; Laborde and Maynor 2008; Lovett 2010, forthcoming; Breen and McBride 2015, List and Valentini 2016). These conditions may include the presence of a democratic constitution and a series of safeguards against a government wielding power arbitrarily, including popular control and the separation of powers. As Berlin admits, on the negative view, I am free even if I live in a dictatorship just as long as the dictator happens, on a whim, not to interfere with me (see also Hayek 1960). There is no necessary connection between negative liberty and any particular form of government. Is it not counterintuitive to say that I can in theory be free even if I live in a dictatorship, or that a slave can enjoy considerable liberty as long as the slave-owner is compassionate and generous? Would my subjection to the arbitrary power of a dictator or slave-owner not itself be sufficient to qualify me as unfree? If it would be, then we should say that I am free only if I live in a society with the kinds of political institutions that guarantee the independence of each citizen from such arbitrary power. Quentin Skinner has called this view of freedom ‘neo-Roman’, invoking ideas about freedom both of the ancient Romans and of a number of Renaissance and early modern writers. Philip Pettit has called the same view ‘republican’, and this label has generally prevailed in the recent literature.

Republican freedom can be thought of as a kind of status : to be a free person is to enjoy the rights and privileges attached to the status of republican citizenship, whereas the paradigm of the unfree person is the slave. Freedom is not simply a matter of non-interference, for a slave may enjoy a great deal of non-interference at the whim of her master. What makes her unfree is her status, such that she is permanently exposed to interference of any kind. Even if the slave enjoys non-interference, she is, as Pettit puts it, ‘dominated’, because she is permanently subject to the arbitrary power of her owner.

According to Pettit, then, republicans conceive of freedom not as non-interference, as on the standard negative view, but as ‘non-domination’. Non-domination is distinct from negative freedom, he says, for two reasons. First, as we have seen, one can enjoy non-interference without enjoying non-domination. Second, one can enjoy non-domination while nevertheless being interfered with, just as long as the interference in question is constrained to track one’s avowed interests thanks to republican power structures: only arbitrary power is inimical to freedom, not power as such.

On the other hand, republican freedom is also distinct from positive freedom as expounded and criticized by Berlin. First, republican freedom does not consist in the activity of virtuous political participation; rather, that participation is seen as instrumentally related to freedom as non-domination. Secondly, the republican concept of freedom cannot lead to anything like the oppressive consequences feared by Berlin, because it has a commitment to non-domination and to liberal-democratic institutions already built into it.

Pettit’s idea of freedom as non domination has caught the imagination of a great many political theorists over the last two decades. One source of its popularity lies in the fact that it seems to make sense of the phenomena of oppression and structural injustice referred to above, but without necessarily relying on references to internal constraints. It has been applied not only to relations of domination between governments and citizens, but also to relations of domination between employers and workers (Breen and McBride 2015), between husbands and wives (Lovett forthcoming), and between able-bodied and disabled people (De Wispelaere and Casassas 2014).

It remains to be seen, however, whether the republican concept of freedom is ultimately distinguishable from the negative concept, or whether republican writers on freedom have not simply provided good arguments to the effect that negative freedom is best promoted, on balance and over time , through certain kinds of political institutions rather than others. While there is no necessary connection between negative liberty and democratic government, there may nevertheless be a strong empirical correlation between the two. Ian Carter (1999, 2008), Matthew H. Kramer (2003, 2008), and Robert Goodin and Frank Jackson (2007) have argued, along these lines, that republican policies are best defended empirically on the basis of the standard negative ideal of freedom, rather than on the basis of a conceptual challenge to that ideal. An important premise in such an argument is that the extent of a person’s negative freedom is a function not simply of how many single actions are prevented, but of how many different act-combinations are prevented. On this basis, people who can achieve their goals only by bowing and scraping to their masters must be seen as less free, negatively, than people who can achieve those goals unconditionally. Another important premise is that the extent to which people are negatively free depends, in part, on the probability with which they will be constrained from performing future acts or act-combinations. People who are subject to arbitrary power can be seen as less free in the negative sense even if they do not actually suffer interference, because the probability of their suffering constraints is always greater ( ceteris paribus , as a matter of empirical fact) than it would be if they were not subject to that arbitrary power. Only this greater probability, they say, can adequately explain republican references to the ‘fear’, the ‘sense of exposure’, and the ‘precariousness’ of the dominated (for further discussion see Bruin 2009, Lang 2012, Shnayderman 2012, Kirby 2016, Carter and Shnayderman 2019).

In reply to the above point about the relevance of probabilities, republicans have insisted that freedom as non-domination is nevertheless distinct from negative liberty because what matters for an agent’s freedom is the impossibility of others interfering, not the mere improbability of their doing so. Consider the example of gender relations with the context of marriage. A husband might be kind and generous, or indeed have a strong sense of egalitarian justice, and therefore be extremely unlikely ever to deny his wife the same opportunities as he himself enjoys; but the wife is still dominated if the structure of norms in her society is such as to permit husbands to frustrate the choices of their wives in numerous ways. If she lives in such a society, she is still subject to the husband’s power whether he likes it or not. And whether the husband likes it or not, the wife’s subjection to his power will tend to influence how third parties treat her – for example, in terms of offering employment opportunities.

Taken at face value, however, the requirement of impossibility of interference seems over demanding, as it is never completely impossible for others to constrain me. It is not impossible that I be stabbed by someone as I walk down the street this afternoon. Indeed, the possible world in which this event occurs is very close to the actual world, even if the event is improbable in the actual world. If the mere possibility of the stabbing makes me unfree to walk down the street, then unfreedom is everywhere and the achievement of freedom is itself virtually impossible. To avoid this worry, republicans have qualified their impossibility requirement: for me to be free to walk down the street, it must be impossible for others to stab me with impunity (Pettit 2008a, 2008b; Skinner 2008). This qualification makes the impossibility requirement more realistic. Nevertheless, the qualification is open to objections. Is ‘impunity’ a purely formal requirement, or should we say that no one can carry out a street stabbing with impunity if, say, at least 70% of such stabbings lead to prosecution? Even if 100% of such stabbings lead to prosecution, there will still be some stabbings. Will they not be sources of unfreedom for the victims?

More recently some republicans have sidelined the notion of impunity of interference in favour of that of ‘ignorability’ of interference (Ingham and Lovett 2019). I am free to make certain choices if the structure of effective societal norms, whether legal or customary, is such as to constrain the ability of anyone else to frustrate those choices, to the point where the possibility of such frustration, despite existing, is remote enough to be something I can ignore. Once I can ignore that possibility, then the structure of effective norms makes me safe by removing any sense of exposure to interference. Defenders of the negative concept of liberty might respond to this move by saying that the criterion of ignorability looks very much like a criterion of trivially low probability: we consider ourselves free to do x to the extent that the system of enforced norms deters others’ prevention of x in such a way as to make that prevention improbable.

The jury is still out on whether republicans have successfully carved out a third concept of freedom that is really distinct from those of negative and positive liberty. This conceptual uncertainty need not itself cast doubt on the distinctness and attractiveness of republicanism as a set of political prescriptions. Rather, what it leaves open is the question of the ultimate normative bases of those prescriptions: is ‘non-domination’ something that supervenes on certain configurations of negative freedom and unfreedom, and therefore explainable in terms of such configurations, or is it something truly distinct from those configurations?

The two sides identified by Berlin disagree over which of two different concepts best captures the political ideal of ‘liberty’. Does this fact not denote the presence of some more basic agreement between the two sides? How, after all, could they see their disagreement as one about the nature of liberty if they did not think of themselves as in some sense talking about the same thing ? In an influential article, the American legal philosopher Gerald MacCallum (1967) put forward the following answer: there is in fact only one basic concept of freedom, on which both sides in the debate converge . What the so-called negative and positive theorists disagree about is how this single concept of freedom should be interpreted. Indeed, in MacCallum’s view, there are a great many different possible interpretations of freedom, and it is only Berlin’s artificial dichotomy that has led us to think in terms of there being two.

MacCallum defines the basic concept of freedom — the concept on which everyone agrees — as follows: a subject, or agent, is free from certain constraints, or preventing conditions, to do or become certain things. Freedom is therefore a triadic relation — that is, a relation between three things : an agent, certain preventing conditions, and certain doings or becomings of the agent. Any statement about freedom or unfreedom can be translated into a statement of the above form by specifying what is free or unfree, from what it is free or unfree, and what it is free or unfree to do or become . Any claim about the presence or absence of freedom in a given situation will therefore make certain assumptions about what counts as an agent, what counts as a constraint or limitation on freedom, and what counts as a purpose that the agent can be described as either free or unfree to carry out.

The definition of freedom as a triadic relation was first put forward in the seminal work of Felix Oppenheim in the 1950s and 60s. Oppenheim saw that an important meaning of ‘freedom’ in the context of political and social philosophy was as a relation between two agents and a particular (impeded or unimpeded) action. However, Oppenheim’s interpretation of freedom was an example of what Berlin would call a negative concept. What MacCallum did was to generalize this triadic structure so that it would cover all possible claims about freedom, whether of the negative or the positive variety. In MacCallum’s framework, unlike in Oppenheim’s, the interpretation of each of the three variables is left open. In other words, MacCallum’s position is a meta-theoretical one: his is a theory about the differences between theorists of freedom.

To illustrate MacCallum’s point, let us return to the example of the smoker driving to the tobacconists. In describing this person as either free or unfree, we shall be making assumptions about each of MacCallum’s three variables. If we say that the driver is free , what we shall probably mean is that an agent, consisting in the driver’s empirical self, is free from external (physical or legal) obstacles to do whatever he or she might want to do. If, on the other hand, we say that the driver is unfree , what we shall probably mean is that an agent, consisting in a higher or rational self, is made unfree by internal, psychological constraints to carry out some rational, authentic or virtuous plan. Notice that in both claims there is a negative element and a positive element: each claim about freedom assumes both that freedom is freedom from something (i.e., preventing conditions) and that it is freedom to do or become something. The dichotomy between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’ is therefore a false one, and it is misleading to say that those who see the driver as free employ a negative concept and those who see the driver as unfree employ a positive one. What these two camps differ over is the way in which one should interpret each of the three variables in the triadic freedom-relation. More precisely, we can see that what they differ over is the extension to be assigned to each of the variables.

Thus, those whom Berlin places in the negative camp typically conceive of the agent as having the same extension as that which it is generally given in ordinary discourse: they tend to think of the agent as an individual human being and as including all of the empirical beliefs and desires of that individual. Those in the so-called positive camp, on the other hand, often depart from the ordinary notion, in one sense imagining the agent as more extensive than in the ordinary notion, and in another sense imagining it as less extensive: they think of the agent as having a greater extension than in ordinary discourse in cases where they identify the agent’s true desires and aims with those of some collectivity of which she is a member; and they think of the agent as having a lesser extension than in ordinary discourse in cases where they identify the true agent with only a subset of her empirical beliefs and desires — i.e., with those that are rational, authentic or virtuous. Secondly, those in Berlin’s positive camp tend to take a wider view of what counts as a constraint on freedom than those in his negative camp: the set of relevant obstacles is more extensive for the former than for the latter, since negative theorists tend to count only external obstacles as constraints on freedom, whereas positive theorists also allow that one may be constrained by internal factors, such as irrational desires, fears or ignorance. And thirdly, those in Berlin’s positive camp tend to take a narrower view of what counts as a purpose one can be free to fulfill. The set of relevant purposes is less extensive for them than for the negative theorists, for we have seen that they tend to restrict the relevant set of actions or states to those that are rational, authentic or virtuous, whereas those in the negative camp tend to extend this variable so as to cover any action or state the agent might desire.

On MacCallum’s analysis, then, there is no simple dichotomy between positive and negative liberty; rather, we should recognize that there is a whole range of possible interpretations or ‘conceptions’ of the single concept of liberty. Indeed, as MacCallum says and as Berlin seems implicitly to admit, a number of classic authors cannot be placed unequivocally in one or the other of the two camps. Locke, for example, is normally thought of as one of the fathers or classical liberalism and therefore as a staunch defender of the negative concept of freedom. He indeed states explicitly that ‘[to be at] liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others’. But he also says that liberty is not to be confused with ‘license’, and that “that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from bogs and precipices” ( Second Treatise , parags. 6 and 57). While Locke gives an account of constraints on freedom that Berlin would call negative, he seems to endorse an account of MacCallum’s third freedom-variable that Berlin would call positive, restricting this variable to actions that are not immoral (liberty is not license) and to those that are in the agent’s own interests (I am not unfree if prevented from falling into a bog). A number of contemporary liberals or libertarians have provided or assumed definitions of freedom that are similarly morally loaded (e.g. Nozick 1974; Rothbard 1982; Bader 2018). This would seem to confirm MacCallum’s claim that it is conceptually and historically misleading to divide theorists into two camps — a negative liberal one and a positive non-liberal one.

To illustrate the range of interpretations of the concept of freedom made available by MacCallum’s analysis, let us now take a closer look at his second variable — that of constraints on freedom.

Advocates of negative conceptions of freedom typically restrict the range of obstacles that count as constraints on freedom to those that are brought about by other agents. For theorists who conceive of constraints on freedom in this way, I am unfree only to the extent that other people prevent me from doing certain things. If I am incapacitated by natural causes — by a genetic handicap, say, or by a virus or by certain climatic conditions — I may be rendered unable to do certain things, but I am not, for that reason, rendered unfree to do them. Thus, if you lock me in my house, I shall be both unable and unfree to leave. But if I am unable to leave because I suffer from a debilitating illness or because a snow drift has blocked my exit, I am nevertheless not unfree, to leave. The reason such theorists give, for restricting the set of relevant preventing conditions in this way, is that they see unfreedom as a social relation — a relation between persons (see Oppenheim 1961; Miller 1983; Steiner 1983; Kristjánsson 1996; Kramer 2003; Morriss 2012; Shnayderman 2013; Schmidt 2016). Unfreedom as mere inability is thought by such authors to be more the concern of engineers and medics than of political and social philosophers. (If I suffer from a natural or self-inflicted inability to do something, should we to say that I remain free to do it, or should we say that the inability removes my freedom to do it while nevertheless not implying that I am un free to do it? In the latter case, we shall be endorsing a ‘trivalent’ conception, according to which there are some things that a person is neither free nor unfree to do. Kramer 2003 endorses a trivalent conception according to which freedom is identified with ability and unfreedom is the prevention (by others) of outcomes that the agent would otherwise be able to bring about.)

In attempting to distinguish between natural and social obstacles we shall inevitably come across gray areas. An important example is that of obstacles created by impersonal economic forces. Do economic constraints like recession, poverty and unemployment merely incapacitate people, or do they also render them unfree? Libertarians and egalitarians have provided contrasting answers to this question by appealing to different conceptions of constraints. Thus, one way of answering the question is by taking an even more restrictive view of what counts as a constraint on freedom, so that only a subset of the set of obstacles brought about by other persons counts as a restriction of freedom: those brought about intentionally . In this case, impersonal economic forces, being brought about unintentionally, do not restrict people’s freedom , even though they undoubtedly make many people unable to do many things. This last view has been taken by a number of market-oriented libertarians, including, most famously, Friedrich von Hayek (1960, 1982), according to whom freedom is the absence of coercion, where to be coerced is to be subject to the arbitrary will of another. (Notice the somewhat surprising similarity between this conception of freedom and the republican conception discussed earlier, in section 3.2) Critics of libertarianism, on the other hand, typically endorse a broader conception of constraints on freedom that includes not only intentionally imposed obstacles but also unintended obstacles for which someone may nevertheless be held responsible (for Miller and Kristjánsson and Shnayderman this means morally responsible; for Oppenheim and Kramer it means causally responsible), or indeed obstacles created in any way whatsoever, so that unfreedom comes to be identical to inability (see Crocker 1980; Cohen 2011, pp. 193–97; Sen 1992; Van Parijs 1995; Garnett forthcoming).

This analysis of constraints helps to explain why socialists and egalitarians have tended to claim that the poor in a capitalist society are as such unfree, or that they are less free than the rich, whereas libertarians have tended to claim that the poor in a capitalist society are no less free than the rich. Egalitarians typically (though do not always) assume a broader notion than libertarians of what counts as a constraint on freedom. Although this view does not necessarily imply what Berlin would call a positive notion of freedom, egalitarians often call their own definition a positive one, in order to convey the sense that freedom requires not merely the absence of certain social relations of prevention but the presence of abilities, or what Amartya Sen has influentially called ‘capabilities’ (Sen 1985, 1988, 1992; Nussbaum 2006, 2011). (Important exceptions to this egalitarian tendency to broaden the relevant set of constraints include those who consider poverty to indicate a lack of social freedom (see sec. 3.1, above). Steiner (1994), grounds a left-libertarian theory of justice in the idea of an equal distribution of social freedom, which he takes to imply an equal distribution of resources.)

We have seen that advocates of a negative conception of freedom tend to count only obstacles that are external to the agent. Notice, however, that the term ‘external’ is ambiguous in this context, for it might be taken to refer either to the location of the causal source of an obstacle or to the location of the obstacle itself. Obstacles that count as ‘internal’ in terms of their own location include psychological phenomena such as ignorance, irrational desires, illusions and phobias. Such constraints can be caused in various ways: for example, they might have a genetic origin, or they might be brought about intentionally by others, as in the case of brainwashing or manipulation. In the first case we have an internal constraint brought about by natural causes, and in this sense ‘internally’; in the second, an internal constraint intentionally imposed by another human agent, and in this sense ‘externally’.

More generally, we can now see that there are in fact two different dimensions along which one’s notion of a constraint might be broader or narrower. A first dimension is that of the source of a constraint — in other words, what it is that brings about a constraint on freedom. We have seen, for example, that some theorists include as constraints on freedom only obstacles brought about by human action, whereas others also include obstacles with a natural origin. A second dimension is that of the type of constraint involved, where constraint-types include the types of internal constraint just mentioned, but also various types of constraint located outside the agent, such as physical barriers that render an action impossible, obstacles that render the performance of an action more or less difficult, and costs attached to the performance of a (more or less difficult) action. The two dimensions of type and source are logically independent of one another. Given this independence, it is theoretically possible to combine a narrow view of what counts as a source of a constraint with a broad view of what types of obstacle count as unfreedom-generating constraints, or vice versa . As a result, it is not clear that theorists who are normally placed in the ‘negative’ camp need deny the existence of internal constraints on freedom (see Kramer 2003; Garnett 2007).

To illustrate the independence of the two dimensions of type and source, consider the case of the unorthodox libertarian Hillel Steiner (1974–5, 1994). On the one hand, Steiner has a much broader view than Hayek of the possible sources of constraints on freedom: he does not limit the set of such sources to intentional human actions, but extends it to cover all kinds of human cause, whether or not any humans intend such causes and whether or not they can be held morally accountable for them, believing that any restriction of such non-natural sources can only be an arbitrary stipulation, usually arising from some more or less conscious ideological bias. On the other hand, Steiner has an even narrower view than Hayek about what type of obstacle counts as a constraint on freedom: for Steiner, an agent only counts as unfree to do something if it is physically impossible for her to do that thing. Any extension of the constraint variable to include other types of obstacle, such as the costs anticipated in coercive threats, would, in his view, necessarily involve a reference to the agent’s desires, and we have seen (in sec. 2) that for those liberals in the negative camp there is no necessary relation between an agent’s freedom and her desires. Consider the coercive threat ‘Your money or your life!’. This does not make it impossible for you to refuse to hand over your money, only much less desirable for you to do so. If you decide not to hand over the money, you will suffer the cost of being killed. That will count as a restriction of your freedom, because it will render physically impossible a great number of actions on your part. But it is not the issuing of the threat that creates this unfreedom, and you are not unfree until the sanction (described in the threat) is carried out. For this reason, Steiner excludes threats — and with them all other kinds of imposed costs — from the set of obstacles that count as freedom-restricting. This conception of freedom derives from Hobbes ( Leviathan , chs. 14 and 21), and its defenders often call it the ‘pure’ negative conception (M. Taylor 1982; Steiner 1994; Carter and Kramer 2008) to distinguish it from those ‘impure’ negative conceptions that make at least minimal references to the agent’s beliefs, desires or values.

Steiner’s account of the relation between freedom and coercive threats might be thought to have counterintuitive implications, even from the liberal point of view. Many laws that are normally thought to restrict negative freedom do not physically prevent people from doing what is prohibited, but deter them from doing so by threatening punishment. Are we to say, then, that these laws do not restrict the negative freedom of those who obey them? A solution to this problem may consist in saying that although a law against doing some action, x , does not remove the freedom to do x , it nevertheless renders physically impossible certain combinations of actions that include doing x and doing what would be precluded by the punishment. There is a restriction of the person’s overall negative freedom — i.e. a reduction in the overall number of act-combinations available to her — even though she does not lose the freedom to do any specific thing taken in isolation (Carter 1999).

The concept of overall freedom appears to play an important role both in everyday discourse and in contemporary political philosophy. It is only recently, however, that philosophers have stopped concentrating exclusively on the meaning of a particular freedom — the freedom to do or become this or that particular thing — and have started asking whether we can also make sense of descriptive claims to the effect that one person or society is freer than another, or of liberal normative claims to the effect that freedom should be maximized or that people should enjoy equal freedom or that they each have a right to a certain minimum level of freedom. The literal meaningfulness of such claims depends on the possibility of gauging degrees of overall freedom, sometimes comparatively, sometimes absolutely.

Theorists disagree, however, about the importance of the notion of overall freedom. For some libertarian and liberal egalitarian theorists, freedom is valuable as such. This suggests that more freedom is better than less (at least ceteris paribus ), and that freedom is one of those goods that a liberal society ought to distribute in a certain way among individuals. For other liberal theorists, like Ronald Dworkin (1977, 2011) and the later Rawls (1991), freedom is not valuable as such, and all claims about maximal or equal freedom ought to be interpreted not as literal references to a scalar good called ‘liberty’ but as elliptical references to the adequacy of lists of certain particular liberties, or types of liberties, selected on the basis of values other than liberty itself. Generally speaking, only the first group of theorists finds the notion of overall freedom interesting.

The theoretical problems involved in measuring overall freedom include that of how an agent’s available actions are to be individuated, counted and weighted, and that of comparing and weighting different types (but not necessarily different sources) of constraints on freedom (such as physical prevention, punishability, threats and manipulation). How are we to make sense of the claim that the number of options available to a person has increased? Should all options count for the same in terms of degrees of freedom, or should they be weighted according to their importance in terms of other values? If the latter, does the notion of overall freedom really add anything of substance to the idea that people should be granted those specific freedoms that are valuable? Should the degree of variety among options also count? And how are we to compare the unfreedom created by the physical impossibility of an action with, say, the unfreedom created by the difficulty or costliness or punishability of an action? It is only by comparing these different kinds of actions and constraints that we shall be in a position to compare individuals’ overall degrees of freedom. These problems have been addressed, with differing degrees of optimism, not only by political philosophers (Steiner 1983; Carter 1999; Kramer 2003; Garnett 2016; Côté 2020; Carter and Steiner 2021) but also by social choice theorists interested in finding a freedom-based alternative to the standard utilitarian or ‘welfarist’ framework that has tended to dominate their discipline (e.g. Pattanaik and Xu 1991, 1998; Hees 2000; Sen 2002; Sugden 1998, 2003, 2006; Bavetta 2004; Bavetta and Navarra 2012, 2014).

MacCallum’s framework is particularly well suited to the clarification of such issues. For this reason, theorists working on the measurement of freedom tend not to refer a great deal to the distinction between positive and negative freedom. This said, most of them are concerned with freedom understood as the availability of options. And the notion of freedom as the availability of options is unequivocally negative in Berlin’s sense at least where two conditions are met: first, the source of unfreedom is limited to the actions of other agents, so that natural or self-inflicted obstacles are not seen as decreasing an agent’s freedom; second, the actions one is free or unfree to perform are weighted in some value-neutral way, so that one is not seen as freer simply because the options available to one are more valuable or conducive to one’s self-realization. Of the above-mentioned authors, only Steiner embraces both conditions explicitly. Sen rejects both of them, despite not endorsing anything like positive freedom in Berlin’s sense.

We began with a simple distinction between two concepts of liberty, and have progressed from this to the recognition that liberty might be defined in any number of ways, depending on how one interprets the three variables of agent, constraints, and purposes. Despite the utility of MacCallum’s triadic formula and its strong influence on analytic philosophers, however, Berlin’s distinction remains an important point of reference for discussions about the meaning and value of political and social freedom. Are these continued references to positive and negative freedom philosophically well-founded?

It might be claimed that MacCallum’s framework is less than wholly inclusive of the various possible conceptions of freedom. In particular, it might be said, the concept of self-mastery or self-direction implies a presence of control that is not captured by MacCallum’s explication of freedom as a triadic relation. MacCallum’s triadic relation indicates mere possibilities . If one thinks of freedom as involving self-direction, on the other hand, one has in mind an exercise-concept of freedom as opposed to an opportunity-concept (this distinction comes from C. Taylor 1979). If interpreted as an exercise concept, freedom consists not merely in the possibility of doing certain things (i.e. in the lack of constraints on doing them), but in actually doing certain things in certain ways — for example, in realizing one’s true self or in acting on the basis of rational and well-informed decisions. The idea of freedom as the absence of constraints on the realization of given ends might be criticised as failing to capture this exercise concept of freedom, for the latter concept makes no reference to the absence of constraints.

However, this defence of the positive-negative distinction as coinciding with the distinction between exercise- and opportunity-concepts of freedom has been challenged by Eric Nelson (2005). As Nelson points out, most of the theorists that are traditionally located in the positive camp, such as Green or Bosanquet, do not distinguish between freedom as the absence of constraints and freedom as the doing or becoming of certain things. For these theorists, freedom is the absence of any kind of constraint whatsoever on the realization of one’s true self (they adopt a maximally extensive conception of constraints on freedom). The absence of all factors that could prevent the action x is, quite simply, equivalent to the realization of x . In other words, if there really is nothing stopping me from doing x — if I possess all the means to do x , and I have a desire to do x , and no desire, irrational or otherwise, not to do x — then I do x . An equivalent way to characterize the difference between such positive theorists and the so-called negative theorists of freedom lies in the degree of specificity with which they describe x . For those who adopt a narrow conception of constraints, x is described with a low degree of specificity ( x could be exemplified by the realization of any of a large array of options); for those who adopt a broad conception of constraints, x is described with a high degree of specificity ( x can only be exemplified by the realization of a specific option, or of one of a small group of options).

What perhaps remains of the distinction is a rough categorization of the various interpretations of freedom that serves to indicate their degree of fit with the classical liberal tradition. There is indeed a certain family resemblance between the conceptions that are normally seen as falling on one or the other side of Berlin’s divide, despite there being some uncertainty about which side to locate certain particular conceptions. One of the decisive factors in determining this family resemblance is the theorist’s degree of concern with the notion of the self. Those on the ‘positive’ side see questions about the nature and sources of a person’s beliefs, desires and values as relevant in determining that person’s freedom, whereas those on the ‘negative’ side, being more faithful to the classical liberal tradition, tend to consider the raising of such questions as in some way indicating a propensity to violate the agent’s dignity or integrity. One side takes a positive interest in the agent’s beliefs, desires and values, while the other recommends that we avoid doing so.

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  • –––, 2016, ‘Ian Carter’s Non-evaluative Theory of Freedom and Diversity. A Critique’, Social Choice and Welfare , 46: 39–55.
  • Simpson, T. W., 2017, ‘The Impossibility of Republican Freedom’, Philosophy and Public Affairs , 45: 28–53.
  • Skinner, Q., 1998, Liberty before Liberalism , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 2002, ‘A Third Concept of Liberty’, Proceedings of the British Academy , 117(237): 237–68.
  • –––, 2008, ‘Freedom as the Absence of Arbitrary Power’, in Laborde and Maynor 2008: 83–101.
  • Steiner, H., 1974–5, ‘Individual Liberty’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society , 75: 33–50, reprinted in Miller 2006: 123–40.
  • –––, 1983, ‘How Free: Computing Personal Liberty’, in A. Phillips Griffiths, Of Liberty , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 73–89.
  • –––, 1994, An Essay on Rights , Oxford: Blackwell.
  • –––, 2001, ‘Freedom and Bivalence’, in Carter and Ricciardi 2001: 57–68.
  • Sugden, R., 1998, ‘The Metric of Opportunity’, Economics and Philosophy , 14: 307–337.
  • –––, 2003, ‘Opportunity as a Space for Individuality: its Value, and the Impossibility of Measuring it’, Ethics , 113(4): 783–809.
  • –––, 2006, ‘What We Desire, What We Have Reason to Desire, Whatever We Might Desire: Mill and Sen on the Value of Opportunity’, Utilitas , 18: 33–51.
  • Taylor, C., 1979, ‘What’s Wrong with Negative Liberty’, in A. Ryan (ed.), The Idea of Freedom , Oxford: Oxford University Press, reprinted in Miller 2006: 141–62.
  • Taylor, M., 1982, Community, Anarchy and Liberty , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Van Parijs, P., 1995, Real Freedom for All , Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Waldron, J., 1993, ‘Homelessness and the Issue of Freedom’, in J. Waldron, Liberal Rights. Collected Papers 1981–1991 , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 309–38.
  • Weinstock, D. and Nadeau, C. (eds.), 2004, Republicanism: History, Theory and Practice , London: Frank Cass.
  • Wendt, F., 2011, ‘Slaves, Prisoners, and Republican Freedom’, Res Publica , 17: 175–92.
  • Williams, B., 2001, ‘From Freedom to Liberty: The Construction of a Political Value’, Philosophy and Public Affairs , 30: 3–26.
  • Young, R., 1986, Autonomy. Beyond Negative and Positive Liberty , New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Zimmerman, D., 2002, ‘Taking Liberties: the Perils of “Moralizing” Freedom and Coercion in Social Theory and Practice’, Social Theory and Practice , 28: 577–609.
How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
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Home Essay Samples Life

Essay Samples on Freedom

Why is freedom of religion important.

Freedom of religion stands as one of the fundamental pillars of a democratic and pluralistic society. It safeguards an individual's right to practice their chosen faith without fear of discrimination or persecution. This essay delves into the resons why freedom of religion is important, exploring...

  • Religious Tolerance

What Is the Meaning of Freedom: the Price We Pay

The concept of freedom has transcended time and culture, serving as a cornerstone of human aspirations and societal progress. But what is the true meaning of freedom, and what price do we pay to attain and preserve it? This essay will delve into the multifaceted...

What Does Freedom Mean to Me: a Privilege and a Responsibility

Freedom, a concept deeply embedded in the fabric of human history, has been sought, fought for, and cherished by individuals and societies alike. But what does freedom truly mean to me? In this essay, I will delve into my personal understanding and interpretation of freedom,...

How Has Freedom Changed Over Time: A Dynamic Journey

How has freedom changed over time? Throughout history, the concept of freedom has undergone profound transformations, shaped by the evolving sociopolitical, cultural, and technological landscapes. As societies progress, the understanding and pursuit of freedom have adapted to new contexts and challenges. In this essay, we...

Balance Between Freedom And Equality

We hear a lot of people talking about “Freedom and Equality”...but do we really know the real meaning? Freedom and Equality are two fundamental values in a society and they have helped to construct the society known today. Without them, the nation would discriminate unfairly...

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Considering Religious Beliefs And Freedom Of Expression

Whether you believe in something or not, the idea of religion has probably crossed your mind. Some people see it as a way to make sense of the world around us and some see it as way of life. the idea that a higher power,...

  • Religious Beliefs

Differences between the Patterson's, Foner's, and King's interpretations of Freedom

Patterson gives three different interpretations of freedom. His first interpretation is about personal freedom. He interprets this freedom as the ability of an individual to do as they please within their limits. His second interpretation is sovereign. Like a sovereign nation, a free person can...

  • African American
  • Interpretation

Literary Analysis and Review of Annie Dillard's "Living Like Weasels"

I traveled to Hollins pond not to wonder at life, but to further myself from it. Yet I can learn from a weasel how to live life. Weasels survive in mindlessness, a pure and dignified way of living, unlike the bias and ulterior motives that...

  • Annie Dillard

Life Without Principle: The Isolation of Oneself in One's World

In Henry David Thoreau's 'Life Without Principle “ the author talks about how we are isolating ourselves from society and how we should live in our own world and not be going towards society. I do agree with Thoreau’s main idea with the passage because...

  • Life Without Principle

Annie Dillard's and Alexander Theroux' Analysis of Freedom

Although the essays “Living like Weasels” Annie Dillard and “Black” by Alexander Theroux tackle two different subjects, they both use similar strategies in order to get their points across to the reader. Dillard uses the Weasels feral nature to analyze freedom. Meanwhile Theroux uses the...

The Battle for Individual Freedom and Autonomy in Amistad

On August 26, 1839, US Navy brig Washington discovered a schooner at Long Island, New York. Unlike conventional merchant ships that carried cargos, this Spanish vessel named La Amistad was severely damaged and came ashore with two Spaniards under the control of forty-four Africans. The...

Mental Slavery: Achieving Mental Freedom

We may consider mental slavery as a psychological disease. Many kinds of illusions, abusive fantasies, frustrating discouragement, etc. create a complex gland of self-mortification in the mind area. These glands become very powerful over time. Then these responses go on various activities of day-to-day activities....

  • Mental Slavery

"Survival in Auschwitz": How Suffering Leads to Freedom

Introduction In Primo Levi's memoir, "Survival in Auschwitz," he vividly recounts his harrowing experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Amidst the unimaginable suffering and dehumanization, Levi explores the paradoxical concept of how enduring immense pain and suffering can...

  • Survival in Auschwitz

The Symbolism of Horses in "All the Pretty Horses"

Freedom can be interpreted into various of meanings. To have freedom is to live in the moment, without regretting the past or anticipating the future. To have freedom can also mean to be in the state of not being subject to or affected by undesirable...

  • All The Pretty Horses

How Hope Leads to Freedom and Success

For any novels to truly connect with the readers the author needs to pay close attention to character development. It’s the human element that is going to resonate with people.A great character is more than just an iconic name it’s the process of creating a...

Chris McCandless: Heroic Adventurer or Naive Risk-taker

Chris McCandless, a young adventurer who left his privileged life behind to embark on a journey into the Alaskan wilderness, has been the subject of much debate. Was he a hero, a brave individual who sought a higher purpose, or a fool who recklessly put...

  • Chris Mccandless
  • Into The Wild

Impact of the Totalitarian Regime on Society In 'A Clockwork Orange'

Society has established that the validation of choice further progresses the people of a country as a nation of the people. It becomes the idea that individual choice is liberty as it serves as the catalysts that structure the basis of democracy which idealizes the...

  • A Clockwork Orange

The Impacts of Social Conditioning on the Individual Freedom

40% of food worldwide is thrown away because of fear of expiration dates. People gravitate towards the idea that nurses are mostly women or that money buys happiness. All these misconceptions and gender stereotypes in today’s society occur because of the impact of social conditioning....

  • Individual Identity

Mill's Opinion on Freedom of Expression and Individual Liberty

One of the most important liberties in a free society would be freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. Some extreme freedom of speech absolutists would argue that all sorts of opinions should be given the right to be expressed. These opinions may include hate...

  • John Stuart Mill

Challenging Kant's Moral Theory of Freedom and Liberty

In his 1793 essay ‘On the common saying: “This may be true in theory, but it does not apply in practice” Kant outlies his view of the relation between morality and liberty and the role freedom plays within both these concepts. This essay will examine...

  • Immanuel Kant

The Challenges of Immigration and Freedom in Charlie Chaplin's Work

Everyone has heard of Charlie Chaplin once in their lives. There’s no way one hasn’t seen at least a clip from one of his many films or come across a work inspired by him throughout the decades. The character Chaplin created, The Tramp, has made...

  • Charlie Chaplin

Wester Concept of Freedom, UDHR and Islam

In 1948, United Nations General Assembly adopted a document Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It was drafted by representatives who came from different cultures & had legal expertise. This states fundamental human rights which all individuals as citizens of the world should be entitled...

The Concept of Freedom in the Modern Technological World

The concept of freedom is always changing and is often open to interpretation. In today’s society, humans are generally born free with equal dignity and rights. Depending on the society one is born into, their interpretation of who really has freedom can change. In Aldous...

  • Modern Technology

The Healthy Viewpoint on the Concept of American Freedom

America is the freest nation in the world. A lot of people dream of getting into this country and have the same opportunities that Americans have. In other words, opportunities mean freedom, freedom of choice. The concept of freedom, as the right of choice, originated...

  • American Culture

The Call of the Wild: A Struggle for Freedom

‘The Call of the Wild’ is a book by Jack London that is set in the midst of the gold discovery that influenced large masses of people to travel into Canada's regions hunting for gold. The narration follows Bucks story in his journey as a...

  • Call of The Wild

The Role of Fate and Free Will in Sophocles' Play "Antigone"

Fate is the idea that everything is destined to happen or turn out in a particular way and it is an important part of many tragedies. The lives of the characters have a set ending in their lives and some are able to recognize their...

Malalathe: A Courageous Fighter for Freedom

Freedom is one of the most basic human urge from the moment of their birth. Freedom is one thing that characterizes the essence and existence of the man (Hor Victorson, 2018). Every individual has their own meaning for freedom. In depth to philosophy,” freedom seems...

Nelson Mandela's Journey to Justice, Reconciliation, and Hope

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela is a compelling account of one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century. Mandela's memoir tells the story of his life, from his childhood in a rural village to his imprisonment for 27 years,...

  • Nelson Mandela

Ralph Waldo Emerson and His Belief in the Freedom of an Individual

Over the course of a lifetime, many human beings are faced with challenges that shape them and opportunities to shape others. Ralph Waldo Emerson is a man who experienced much tragedy, including the premature death of many close family members beginning early in his childhood....

  • Personal Beliefs
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thoreau's Ideas of Transcendentalism Expressed in His Works

Transcendentalism is the movement that emphasizes transcendence from the ordinary limits of thoughts and experiences and acknowledges the new outlook in self-reliance. The movement originated in America in the 19th century after the independence of America from the British gave people a different perspective to...

  • Transcendentalism

Symbols of Freedom in the Movie "Shawshank Redemption"

Seen as a movie or literary theme, the right of Freedom is most of the time felt through the adventures of a person who is wrongfully accused and confined. Putting side by side two things like the right every human being is entitled to have,...

  • Shawshank Redemption

The Theme of Freedom in the Novel "Purple Hibiscus"

Art classes taught at an early age teach the little learners about the color wheel and mixing colors; when the calming color of blue is mixed with the bold energy of red, a new color called purple is produced. It comes as no surprise that...

  • Purple Hibiscus

"Jealous Husband Returns in Form as a Parrot": Search for Freedom

I am analyzing the story called “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot.” It was written by Robert Olen Butler, and first published in the New Yorker on May 22, 1995. It eventually became a part of his book “Tabloid Dreams” that was published by...

  • Short Story

The Power of Freedom in "A Wall of Fire Rising"

Freedom is described to be the power to act however we want. In our lives, we are granted a certain degree of freedom. It is something that we have overused through time and have taken it for granted. In other places, however, the right to...

  • A Wall of Fire Rising

The Misery of Pointless Dreams in A Wall of Fire Rising

I love watching phenomena in little kids that they feel like they need a certain toy or the universe will explode. Their whole world revolves around that one thing. But, once they get that toy, it’s no longer fun to them. Their joy fades away,...

Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom: Questioning Socialism

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman battles against the effects of capitalism and to justify the government intervention in the market. The link between democracy and capitalism, or governmental and economic freedom. Friedman asserts his argument around the relation between the economic freedom and governmental...

The Idea of Freedom in Women's Suffrage

Freedom: having the power to think, speak, and act in any way without control or constriction. Throughout history, women fought to be seen as individuals and to be able to advocate for the things they believed in. The women of this time were unfairly treated...

  • Women's Suffrage

Autobiograpical Tale of Finding Freedom in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass describes the institution of slavery as an institution that dehumanizes people and hardens them through the hardships they go through, such as humiliation, pain, and brutality. He states that 'I was seldom whipped by my former master, and suffering everything little more than...

  • Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass

Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela: Pioneers in the Fight for Freedom

Mahatma Gandhi was the pioneer who joined India in the battle for its freedom. His peacefulness strategies shook the British and maybe, even the world. A portion of the developments that he started amid freedom wereGandhi's first real accomplishments came in 1918 with the Champaran...

  • Mahatma Gandhi

A Doll's House: Discussion about Women's Freedom

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen was written as a result of the rules and conventions obtained by the Northern European Society. In this novel, he proposed that the society was controlled in a restricted manner and was extremely unfair. Although the social context may...

  • A Doll's House
  • Gender Equality

Is Our Obsession With Happiness Making Us Miserable?

Coming from a family tree brimming with cases of depression, I developed a fixation with the concept of happiness, or rather the lack of it, at a very young age. My worrisome mother, having been one of those cases, encouraged me to spend a great...

Immanuel Kant’s Essay “What Is Enlightenment” Is Not Longer Relevant To Modern World

Freedom. It is more than a George Michel’s song. It actually means different things for different people. But at its core, freedom is “the power or right to act, speak or think what one wants”. For Immanuel Kant freedom from the guardians is the primary...

Understanding The Meaning Of Leisure

Over centuries, the meaning of leisure has changed drastically due to the always developing societies and their norms and cultures. In other words, everyone has a different understanding of what leisure means for them. One can look at it from many perspectives which makes the...

Does Don Giovanni Suffered In Any Way?

For any given object, the idea is held that essence precedes existence; a chair created for comfort, a fork for ease in eating, a bulb for illumination, etcetera. Sartre presents the idea that existence precedes essence; we are born and thrown into the world with...

  • Philosophy of Life

History Of Monasticism In World Religions

Monasticism is the lifestyle that was created by monks and nuns. This kind of lifestyle is when a person decides to seclude themselves and devote their life and time to their religion. This is important to realize because this kind of lifestyle has been around...

How Do The Writers Present Freedom?

The theme of freedom is prevalent throughout both of the texts via self finding journeys, love, education and independence. Ali smiths 2007 novel concentrates on the journey an individual must take to reach personal freedom and how our experiences polish us but do not determine...

  • Reading Books

My Definition Of Freedom In My Life

Freedom as a concept is defined in many declarations around the world as a right to freely and safely express one's beliefs and religion. My definition of freedom is my life story. Section One, Chapter 2, Article 29, The Constitution of The Russian Federation: “Everyone...

Inherit the Wind: Drummond as a Figure Fighting for Freedom of Speech

Freedom of thought is an intangible phenomenon that humanity craves. Some may say it is essential to life, but what if we did not have the right to think? Published in 1955, Inherit the Wind is considered a documentary characterizing many historical elements. It examined...

The Problems With School Curriculums And Scheduling System

Teachers are not the problem here, a great teacher can inspire a kid and bring out the best inside them and they can help them when they need it the most and that is truly immeasurable. School curriculums are made by curriculum makers who never...

  • School Curriculums

Symbolism As An Important Tool In Literature

Freedom and Rebellion Symbolism is an important tool in literature that allows authors to unveil the truth in a subtle way. Mark Twain and Kate Chopin effectively use this method in their stories to expose the harsh realities that the characters faced. Twain uses multiple...

  • Literature Review

Best topics on Freedom

1. Why Is Freedom of Religion Important

2. What Is the Meaning of Freedom: the Price We Pay

3. What Does Freedom Mean to Me: a Privilege and a Responsibility

4. How Has Freedom Changed Over Time: A Dynamic Journey

5. Balance Between Freedom And Equality

6. Considering Religious Beliefs And Freedom Of Expression

7. Differences between the Patterson’s, Foner’s, and King’s interpretations of Freedom

8. Literary Analysis and Review of Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels”

9. Life Without Principle: The Isolation of Oneself in One’s World

10. Annie Dillard’s and Alexander Theroux’ Analysis of Freedom

11. The Battle for Individual Freedom and Autonomy in Amistad

12. Mental Slavery: Achieving Mental Freedom

13. “Survival in Auschwitz”: How Suffering Leads to Freedom

14. The Symbolism of Horses in “All the Pretty Horses”

15. How Hope Leads to Freedom and Success

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  • Career Goals
  • Being Different

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Table of contents


Use our free Readability checker

It is hard to find an assignment duller than writing an essay. A freedom essay was my last task that I had performed thanks to lots of online sources and examples given on the Internet. How did I cope with it? I can share my plan of actions with you and I hope it will help to save your time and efforts. When I was a child there was a movie called “Braveheart”. Maybe you haven’t heard of it but people around me adored that cool epic war film with Mel Gibson . There was an episode when during horrible tortures Mel screamed “Freedom!” I thought that he had gone out of his mind. What was the point of being free and fighting for rights when you wouldn’t have a chance to live? When I got the task I decided to watch the whole movie and finally understood that our freedom really matters. That’s why firstly I started to look for the definition of the word “freedom”. I think that the primary thing is to find out what your topic means because if you don’t understand the meaning of the “freedom” concept, you’d hardly succeed. So, freedom is a state of mind, it is a right to make a choice, to be yourself. It depends on many things - the epoch and the culture. I’ve chosen several definitions of the word “freedom”– the philosophical, the psychological and the juridical. I considered my essay just a story. It simplifies the task. I imagined that I had to tell a story, that my assignment wasn’t retelling the collected information. It should be a story on the topic “Freedom”.  

Don’t Forget About Boring Rules Which Steal Your Freedom

I wondered why a student hates academic writing. When I had written my first essay I realized why people hate coping with it. My personal experience showed that I didn’t like to write essays because of the following reasons:

  • It’s hard to concentrate on the topic when you don’t like or even don’t understand it. Firstly, my tutor didn’t allow me to choose the theme to discuss and I had to squeeze ideas from nowhere.
  • Tutors ask to write about the things THEY want. That’s a horrible mistake because a person has no chance to choose and get creative. There is no freedom.
  • I tried to get an “A” instead of writing something really qualitative and interesting.
  • The topic wasn’t catchy and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible.
  • I wanted to post my pictures on Instagram more than to deal with the paper.
  • I HAD to follow someone’s rules. Format, style, number of pages and words and a great number of other things irritate greatly.

I decided to find the right method of approach. I think that when a person takes a task as something pleasant, not just a duty, it will be much easier to cope with it.

Helpful Tips on Writing a Successful Freedom Essay

I decided to work out my rules which would help to write freely and not fear the task. Here they are! Think that it’s not an essay - just a blog story on freedom. I feel good when posting something. I share my ideas and get rid of the pressure. People love blog stories about freedom. So, imagine that you just develop your website.  

  • Love what you do. Writing about freedom may be funny and bring much pleasure. Find the idea and highlight it the way you want.
  • Your opinion matters much. You are not to agree with everyone. Rebel and be original. If something about the topic “freedom” surprises you, it can surprise everyone.
  • Don’t limit yourself. I never depend on one source and don’t stick to one point. First, I investigate the topic and read the FAQ which concerns my essay to get different points of view. I never force myself to write at least something. I take a rest when I need it and write what I love because that’s MY essay.
  • Quote and respect somebody’s idea. And be sure that you know how to quote a quote . Tutors appreciate when students sound logical and clever. Quotes are not always good. It’s better to get ideas and rewrite them by adding your own opinion. “When I do something I do it for my country and don’t wait for the appraisal.” Sounds familiar? Yes! I just rewrote the idea taken from Kennedy’s speech. That’s how freedom quotes should be paraphrased.
  • Start with theme essay outline . Continue writing the body and then write the intro and the conclusion. I write the body of my freedom essay, investigate and improve it. I see the strongest point and present it in the intro and highlight it in my freedom essay conclusion. Once I tried to begin with the introduction soon found out that my essay had stronger ideas and, as a result, I had to delete it and write the new one.
  • Your writing is your freedom - enjoy it. I don’t like to measure myself. If I have something to say right now, I write it. It can be a single sentence or a paragraph. Later I insert it into my essay. I don’t always have time to finish the paper at once. I can write it for many days. One day I feel great and creative and the other day I feel terrible and don’t touch the keyboard. Inspiration is essential.
  • Don’t deal with taboo issues. Clichés and too complicated language spoil the paper. One more thing to remember is avoiding plagiarism. Once a friend of mine had copied a passage from the work and his paper was banned. I am unique, you are unique, and the freedom essay must be unique as well.
  • Learn the topic properly. It’s important to find the topic captivating for the society and for you. Freedom is not a limited topic and there are a number of variations.

Below are some topics offered by our creative title generator for essay :

  • Freedom of conscience
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom in choosing
  • Freedom of action
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Free people.

Now you can see that freedom can be different. Freedom is a part of the human life and you can describe it in different ways.

Freedom of Speech Essay Sample

It’s not easy to write a freedom of speech essay because freedom of speech doesn’t exist. Freedom is an illusion and our politicians try to serve freedom as a main course. People pay much attention to each word being afraid that social networks will ban their “freedom” paper. Every online website must keep within laws that our government creates. Why do people speak of freedom of the press and other freedom issues?


Contact our essay website and free yourself up from academic writing. Our professionals will deliver fantastic result on any topic even if you have 3 hours before the deadline is over.


Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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First of all, it’s necessary to find out what the word “freedom” means. According to the thesaurus, freedom is the power or right to act, think, and speak the way one wants. Its synonym is the word “liberty” that deals with “independence” and “sovereignty”. Freedom of speech is the ability to express ideas, beliefs, complaints, and grudges freely. The government mustn’t punish people who said something wrong or present information without supporting it with facts. Do we really have such freedom? The problem is that freedom of speech doesn’t exist alone and cannot be limitless. If you lie, you deprive a person of the right to live normally. If you publish the harsh truth, you can harm someone innocent and spoil somebody’s freedom. Do you really think that you read and hear 100% verified news on TV, radio, social networks, and printed sources? There is always someone behind it. The team of editors corrects everything they don’t like; they can even refuse to publish the announcement at all. There are only a few bloggers who share the truth and don’t decorate it with beautiful words and nice pictures. Still, some countries try to make everything possible to let people speak without limitations and strict censorship. The first country that provided people with the freedom of speech was Ancient Greece. Everybody could express themselves and say both positive and negative issues about policy, country, and other people. The United States of America introduced the First Amendment that declared the right of Americans to discuss things openly. Though, not all types of speech freedom are protected by the law. It’s forbidden to humiliate somebody, post defamation, threat somebody, publish works that are absolutely not unique and spread the material that contains child pornography or other similar issues. Provocative publications or those which aim us to make somebody violate a law belong to the category of unprotected speeches. Freedom of speech is a part of democracy. Unfortunately, not all democratic countries let their citizens express their thoughts the way they want and need. As long as there are such countries we cannot speak about the notion of absolute freedom of speech.

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Essay on Freedom in 100, 200 and 300 Words

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  • Nov 15, 2023

Essay On freedom

Before starting to write an essay on freedom, you must understand what this multifaceted term means. Freedom is not just a term, but a concept holding several meanings. Freedom generally refers to being able to act, speak or think as one wants without any restrictions or hindrances. Freedom encompasses the ability to make independent decisions and express your thoughts without any fear so that one can achieve their goals and aspirations. Let’s check out some essays on freedom for more brief information.

This Blog Includes:

Essay on freedom in 100 words, essay on freedom in 200 words, essay on freedom in 300 words.

Also Read: English Essay Topics

Also Read: How to Write an Essay in English

Also Read: Speech on Republic Day for Class 12th

Freedom is considered the essence of human existence because it serves as the cornerstone on which societal developments and individual identities are shaped. Countries with democracy consider freedom as one of the fundamental rights for every individual to make choices and live life according to their free will, desires and aspirations. This free will to make decisions has been a driving force behind countless movements, revolutions and societal progress throughout history.

Political freedom entails the right to participate in governance, express dissent, and engage in public discourse without the threat of censorship or retribution. It is the bedrock of democratic societies, fostering an environment where diverse voices can be heard.

Also Read: In Pursuit of Freedom- India’s Journey to Independence From 1857 to 1947

Freedom is considered the lifeblood of human progress and the foundation of a just and equitable society. It is a beacon of hope that inspires individuals to strive for a world where every person can live with dignity and pursue their dreams without fear or constraint. Some consider freedom as the catalyst for personal growth and the cultivation of one’s unique identity, enabling individuals to explore their full potential and contribute their talents to the world.

  • On a personal level, freedom is synonymous with autonomy and self-determination . It grants individuals the liberty to choose their paths, make decisions in accordance with their values, and pursue their passions without the shackles of external influence.
  • In the political sphere, it underpins the democratic process, allowing individuals to participate in governance and express their opinions without retribution.
  • Socially, it ensures equality and respect for all, regardless of differences in race, gender, or beliefs.

However, freedom comes with the responsibility to exercise it within the bounds of respect for others and collective well-being. Balancing individual liberties with the greater good is crucial for maintaining societal harmony. Upholding freedom requires a commitment to fostering a world where everyone can live with dignity and pursue their aspirations without undue restrictions.

Also read: Essay on Isaac Newton

Freedom is considered the inherent right that lies at the core of human existence. It encompasses the ability to think, act and speak without any restrictions or coercion, allowing individuals to pursue their aspirations and live their lives according to their own values and beliefs. Ranging from personal to political domains, freedom shapes the essence of human dignity and progress.

  • In the political sphere, freedom is the bedrock of democratic societies, fostering an environment where citizens have the right to participate in the decision-making process, voice their concerns, and hold their leaders accountable.
  • It serves as a safeguard against tyranny and authoritarian government , ensuring that governance remains transparent, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of the people.
  • Social freedom is essential for fostering inclusivity and equality within communities. It demands the eradication of discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic, creating a space where every individual is treated with dignity and respect.
  • Social freedom facilitates the celebration of diversity and the recognition of the intrinsic worth of every human being, promoting a society that thrives on mutual understanding and cooperation.
  • On an individual or personal level, freedom signifies the autonomy to make choices, follow one’s passions, and cultivate a sense of self-worth. It encourages individuals to pursue their aspirations and fulfil their potential, fostering personal growth and fulfilment.
  • The ability to express oneself freely and to pursue one’s ambitions without fear of reprisal or oppression is integral to the development of a healthy and vibrant society.

However, exercising freedom necessitates a responsible approach that respects the rights and freedoms of others. The delicate balance between individual liberty and collective well-being demands a conscientious understanding of the impact of one’s actions on the broader community. Upholding and protecting the principles of freedom requires a collective commitment to fostering an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the betterment of humanity.

Freedom generally refers to being able to act, speak or think as one wants without any restrictions or hindrances. Freedom encompasses the ability to make independent decisions and express your thoughts without any fear so that one can achieve their goals and aspirations.

Someone with free will to think, act and speak without any external restrictions is considered a free person. However, this is the bookish definition of this broader concept, where the ground reality can be far different than this.

Writing an essay on freedom in 100 words requires you to describe the definition of this term, and what it means at different levels, such as individual or personal, social and political. freedom comes with the responsibility to exercise it within the bounds of respect for others and collective well-being.

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  • Essay On Freedom

Freedom Essay

500+ words essay on freedom.

We are all familiar with the word ‘freedom’, but you will hear different versions from different people if you ask about it. The definition of freedom varies from person to person. According to some people, freedom means doing something as per their wish; for some people, it means taking a stand for themselves. Ultimately, the fact is that every individual wants to be free and lead their life as per their choice.

Freedom Meaning

Freedom is all about a state of independence where individuals can do what they want without any restrictions. We inherit freedom from the day we are born. It is a quality that each individual possesses. Freedom is a feeling that is felt from within. It can also be defined as a state of mind where you have the right to do what you can think of. The concept of freedom is applied to different aspects of life, and it’s not an absolute term.

All societies describe freedom in their aspect. People of different cultures see freedom in different ways, and accordingly, they enjoy their freedom. We should remember that our freedom should not disregard the rights of others. As good human beings, we should respect others’ freedom and not just live freely. We have to consider the rights and the feelings of people around us when living our freedom.

Creative minds flourish in societies that encourage freedom of opinion, thoughts, beliefs, expression, choice, etc.

Indian Freedom Struggle

The Indian freedom struggle is one of the most significant progress in the history of India. In 1600, the Britishers entered India in the name of trade-specific items like tea, cotton and silk and started ruling our country. Later on, they started ruling our country and made our Indian people their slaves. So, our country has to face the most challenging times to gain independence from British rule. In 1857, the first movement against the British was initiated by Mangal Pandey, an Indian soldier.

India also started various movements against the Britishers to get independence from their rule. One of them includes the Civil Disobedience Movement that started against the British salt monopoly. India could not manufacture salt and had to buy it from the British people by paying huge sums.

After we gained independence, India became one country that gave its citizens some freedom with limited restrictions. Now, India is a free country and the world’s largest democracy.

Freedom of India

During the days of struggle with the Britishers, India drafted a Constitution, which became applicable after independence. Our Constitution provides several freedom rights relevant to all Indian citizens equally. More importantly, these rights are constitutionally equal to every citizen.

Our constitutional rights are the right to equality, freedom, right against exploitation, freedom of religion, culture and educational rights, and right to constitutional remedies.

Importance of Freedom

We can understand the actual value of something when we achieve or earn it by sacrificing our lives. Freedom also means liberalisation from oppression, freedom from racism, opposition, discrimination, and other relatable things. Freedom doesn’t allow us to violate and disregard others’ rights.

The Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech is one of the fundamental human rights of an Indian citizen. An individual can convey his emotions, needs, and wants through speech. For a healthy democracy, the right to freedom of speech is essential for the citizens. The framers of the Constitution knew the importance of this right and declared this a Fundamental Right of every Indian citizen. The Constitution of India guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a). It entitles every citizen to express an opinion without fearing repression by the Government.

Conclusion of the Freedom Essay

At last, we can sum it up by saying that freedom is not what we think. It is a concept, and everybody has their opinions about it. If we see the idea of freedom more broadly, it is connected with happiness. Similarly, it has added value for other people.

Students of the CBSE Board can get essays based on different topics, such as Republic Day Essay , from BYJU’S website. They can visit our CBSE Essay page and learn more about essays.

Frequently Asked Questions on Freedom Essay

What were the slogans used during the indian struggle for freedom.

Slogans used during the Indian independence movement include ‘Karo ya Maro’ (Do or die), ‘Inqlaab Zindabad’ (Long live the Revolution) and ‘Vande Mataram’ (Praise to Motherland)

What is the meaning of freedom?

In simple words, freedom means the ability to act or change without constraint and also possess the power to fulfil one’s resources.

What are examples of freedom?

Even the act of letting a bird out of the cage is an example of freedom. A woman regaining her independence after ending a controlling or abusive marriage is another instance of freedom achieved.

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Essay on Freedom

Students are often asked to write an essay on Freedom in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Freedom

Understanding freedom.

Freedom is a fundamental human right. It is the power to act, speak, or think without restraint. Freedom allows us to make choices and express ourselves.

The Importance of Freedom

Freedom is vital for personal development. It helps us discover who we are and encourages creativity and innovation. Without freedom, our world would lack diversity and progress.

Freedom with Responsibility

However, freedom comes with responsibility. We must respect others’ rights and freedoms. Misuse of freedom can lead to chaos and conflict. Therefore, it’s crucial to use freedom wisely.

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250 Words Essay on Freedom

Freedom, a concept often taken for granted, is a cornerstone of modern civilization. It’s synonymous with autonomy, self-determination, and the capacity to make choices without coercion. Freedom, however, is not absolute; it’s a relative term, defined by societal norms, legal frameworks, and cultural contexts.

The Dialectics of Freedom

Freedom can be broadly categorized into two types: positive and negative. Negative freedom refers to the absence of external constraints, allowing individuals to act according to their will. In contrast, positive freedom is the ability to act in one’s best interest, which often requires societal support and resources. The dialectics of these two types of freedom form the crux of many political and philosophical debates.

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom is inextricably linked with responsibility. Every choice made in freedom has consequences, and individuals must bear the responsibility for their actions. This interplay between freedom and responsibility is a key aspect of ethical and moral judgments.

Freedom in the Modern World

In the modern world, freedom is often associated with democratic rights and civil liberties. However, the rise of digital technology poses new challenges. Questions about data privacy, surveillance, and censorship have sparked debates about the boundaries of freedom in the digital age.

In conclusion, freedom is a complex and multifaceted concept. It’s a fundamental human right, yet its interpretation and application vary widely across different societies and contexts. Understanding the nuances of freedom helps us navigate the ethical and moral dilemmas of our time.

500 Words Essay on Freedom

Freedom, a concept deeply ingrained in human consciousness, is often perceived as the absence of restrictions and the ability to exercise one’s rights and powers at will. It is a fundamental right and the cornerstone of modern democratic societies. However, the concept of freedom is multifaceted, and its interpretation varies across different socio-cultural and political contexts.

The Philosophical Perspective

Philosophically, freedom is more than just the absence of constraints; it is about the ability to act according to one’s true nature and fulfill one’s potential. This perspective, known as positive freedom, contrasts with negative freedom, which focuses on the absence of external interference. The tension between these two interpretations of freedom has been a central theme in political philosophy.

Freedom and Democracy

In the realm of politics, freedom is the bedrock of democracy. It ensures the right to express one’s opinions, to choose one’s leaders, and to live without fear of oppression. However, freedom in a democratic society is not absolute. It is balanced with the responsibility to respect the freedom and rights of others. This balance is often a source of conflict and debate, as societies grapple with the question of where to draw the line between individual freedom and collective responsibility.

Freedom and Human Rights

Freedom is also closely linked to human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations, recognizes freedom as a basic human right. It encompasses not only political and civil liberties but also economic, social, and cultural rights. However, the realization of these rights remains a challenge in many parts of the world, where freedom is curtailed by oppressive regimes, social inequalities, and cultural norms.

The Paradox of Freedom

While freedom is universally desired, it also presents a paradox. Absolute freedom can lead to anarchy, while too much restriction can result in oppression. Finding the right balance is crucial. Hence, freedom should not be seen as a license to do as one pleases, but rather as a responsibility to respect the freedom and rights of others.

Conclusion: The Future of Freedom

In conclusion, freedom is a complex and multifaceted concept. It is a fundamental human right, a cornerstone of democracy, and a philosophical concept that has been debated for centuries. As we move forward into the future, the quest for freedom continues. It is our responsibility to ensure that freedom, in all its forms, is respected and protected. The challenge lies not only in ensuring our own freedom but also in upholding the freedom of others, thereby contributing to a just and equitable world.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

If you’re looking for more, here are essays on other interesting topics:

  • Essay on Free Trade
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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom Essay

The notion of liberty as an irrefutable right of every citizen is central to the history and culture of the United States. The phenomenon of freedom as a political statement and a crucial human value was established since the creation of the U.S., yet the subject matter was expanded on to the extent required to introduce the notion into the American value system by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Having been introduced into American society as WWII erupted, the concept of liberty as viewed through the political lens of Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed setting clear standards and determining the concept of freedom as a multifaceted yet clearly delineated notion. By promoting the principles of the Four Freedoms, Roosevelt managed to change the perception of justice on multiple social and cultural levels, altering attitudes toward immigrants and contributing to the profound change in social interactions.

It is also noteworthy that the concept of liberty started to be developed for the U.S. and its citizens during one of the most challenging periods in American history, namely, during the Great Depression. At the identified critical yet formative point of the American identity’s development, the concept of democracy as a set of irrefutable rights granted to every citizen no matter what their ethnicity, gender, or age was, was formed, allowing one to link these concerns to the American evolution and the plight for political autonomy (Foner 781). The case of Nicola Sacco can be seen as the starting point of the introduction of Roosevelt’s definition of freedom as liberty for all American citizens. As Foner explains, “The Sacco-Vanzetti case laid bare some of the fault lines beneath the surface of American society during the 1920ies” (Foner 780).

It is truly remarkable how the idea of liberty as the foundational principle of building relationships within a democratic society started to emerge despite the presence of rather hostile attitudes toward immigrants and prejudices associated with them. As the phenomenon of immigration became increasingly widespread in American society, Lucas W. Parrish outlined the dangers of the phenomenon in his speech on immigration in 1921, mentioning the “foreign and unsympathetic element” (Foner 792). However, in approximately 25 years, the values of the U.S. population were shifted completely to the idea of empathy and support for all members of the American community, disregarding their ethnicity, beliefs, and gender (Foner 793). Specifically, the Four Freedoms that Roosevelt promoted as the foundational values and the definition of freedom as “free thought and intellectual integrity” could be defined as a huge breakthrough in building relationships within the American community (Foner 815). Therefore, Roosevelt’s definition of freedom contributed to shaping American society as a multifaceted and intricate one, which was why Roosevelt used his message so often.

The introduction of not only economic but also political and social aspects into the idea of liberty as the cornerstone of American society was one of the main features of Roosevelt’s philosophy. Thus, it would be reasonable to claim that the notion of social justice was introduced into the concept of freedom at the time (“Franklin Roosevelt’s Re-Nomination Acceptance Speech (1936)”). As Foner explains, the era in question is “a new age where no political freedom but social and institutional freedom is the most insistent cry” (839). Thus, the shift toward the social perspective associated with the notion of liberty as it was represented by Roosevelt could be regarded as the foundational change that would determine the course of development for American society in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

“Franklin Roosevelt’s Re-Nomination Acceptance Speech (1936).” The American Yawp Reader , n.d., Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, September 6). Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom." IvyPanda , 6 Sept. 2021,

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom'. 6 September.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom." September 6, 2021.

1. IvyPanda . "Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom." September 6, 2021.


IvyPanda . "Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Definition of Freedom." September 6, 2021.

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‘Shogun’ Episode 5 Recap: Communication Breakdown

John Blackthorne and Lady Mariko learn the responsibility that comes with freedom when Buntaro returns.

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A man in a dark robe and a woman in a light robe sit opposite one another — the man on the left, the woman to the right — on rock cliffs over looking a seascape.

By Sean T. Collins

Episode 5: ‘Broken to the Fist’

Sometimes there’s nothing worse than a miracle. On this week’s episode of “Shogun,” Lady Mariko is shocked when her lord husband, Buntaro, emerges unscathed from what seemed like certain death at the hands of Lord Ishido’s soldiers back in Osaka. Though a brave and formidable warrior, he’s also a emotionally and physically abusive husband. To Buntaro, being forced to share a house with a barbarian like John Blackthorne is like living in the monkey house at a zoo. What he would do if he found out about the clandestine dalliance between Blackthorne and Mariko is all too obvious.

Buntaro’s disgust with the Anjin is easy enough to explain. But his contempt for Mariko — on display during a drunken target practice when he laces arrows millimeters past her face —is part and parcel of his contempt for her entire family. In violation of virtually every shibboleth governing the conduct of samurai, her father assassinated a brutal lord for the sake of the realm. Mariko’s entire family was executed for it — by her father, who committed seppuku after being forced to carry out the act. Mariko wished to fight and die to avenge this injustice, but Buntaro has ordered her to live. She does this while offering him no emotional response to his importunities whatsoever.

To Blackthorne, who cannot fully grasp the concept of the eightfold fence , it sounds like a miserable existence — and to be fair to the Anjin, Mariko has given him little reason to believe otherwise. “You’d die to avenge your father,” he says. “You live in anguish to spite your husband. What becomes of you?” Does she not crave the freedom of self that Englishmen like him enjoy? She wouldn’t enjoy that kind of freedom, Mariko retorts, because it’s a prison of its own. “If freedom is all you ever live for,” she says, “you will never be free of yourself.”

By the time they have this bitter conversation, Blackthorne has come to rue intensely what he perceives to be Japan’s absence of freedom. In an attempt to capture the flavors of home, he allows a pheasant to rot outside his house — the better, he says, to prepare it for stew. For a while, the bird’s stench and the flies it attracts are the stuff of comedy, as is Blackthorne’s complete inability to talk to his consort Lady Fuji about it without Mariko around to translate. (His inability to make himself understood absent Mariko’s aid will become important later.)

The miscommunication, however, turns fatal. Seizing the few words he knows, Blackthorne hyperbolically says that anyone who touches the pheasant in defiance of his wishes will die. The servants have no choice but to take his words literally, just as they have no choice but to remove anything that upsets the harmony of the village as much as that stinking bird.

So it falls to Blackthorne’s favorite employee, the old gardener Uejiro (Junichi Tajiri), to dispose of the bird, and then kill himself for disobeying the Hatamoto. Blackthorne is naturally horrified. Had anyone asked him — had anyone been able to ask him, that is, and had he been able to reply — he would have simply said it was no big deal. Instead, Uejiro died for nothing.

But his death turns out to serve a vital purpose for Lord Toranaga’s cause. As the jockeying for power between Toranaga and his son Nagakado, on one side, and Lord Yabushige and his nephew Omi continues, the latter two have been hunting for Toranaga’s spy in their village. That spy, Muraji — who isn’t a humble fisherman at all, but a samurai working a deep cover assignment for Toranaga — uses Uejiro’s death and the chaos of an earthquake to plant incriminating documents in the wreckage of the deceased servant’s home, ending the search.

Blackthorne is distraught when he learns what has happened. You can read in the eyes of the actor Cosmo Jarvis not just Blackthorne’s grief, but his fear — fear that a similar misstep will cause a similar tragedy. The rules may be different for a ship’s pilot leading his crew and a Hatamoto running his household, but responsibility is a commonly held concept.

The best thing about “Shogun” is that the sword of ignorance and understanding cuts both ways. Consider the entire geopolitical situation surrounding the Anjin’s arrival. Despite his canniness, Lord Toranaga had no idea the Portuguese were building a secret army using Japanese Christian soldiers in order to cement their so-called ownership of Japan. Toranaga, too, did not understand the ways of a dangerous foreign culture, and people died for this as well.

More deaths may be on the way. Returning from Toranaga’s captivity, Lady Ochiba no Kata, widow of the daimyo and mother of the Heir, arrives in Osaka and promptly takes command of the squabbling council of regents. With this one confident maneuver, she establishes herself as a more formidable opponent than Lord Ishido. That’s unlucky for Toranaga, Mariko and Blackthorne. But I have a feeling that if you like the look of those “Lord of the Rings”–size armies and encampments, it’s lucky for you.

By now, all Blackthorne wants to do is take his ship and his crew and go home. He feels he’s upheld his end of his deal with Toranaga. But following that punishing conversation with Lady Mariko, she refuses to translate accurately for him anymore, and his pleas go unheeded.

But John Blackthorne has a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time. His shipwreck on the shores of Japan placed him in grave danger, but it was also what gave him the chance to alert Lord Toranaga, the closest thing Japan has to a ruler, to the perfidy of his Portuguese allies. He winds up a prisoner, but his imprisonment allows Toranaga to delay, and then escape, his impeachment and execution.

Now, just moments after Mariko sabotages his request to leave, he bears witness to an earthquake and a landslide — the kind of natural disaster that horrified him when Mariko first told him about such occurrences.

The landslide gives Blackthorne the opportunity to spring into action, find Lord Toranaga buried beneath the dirt and help drag the man to safety. The Anjin slaps Toranaga on the back a few times until he coughs up the last of the dirt blocking his airway, and then gives Toranaga the swords gifted to him earlier by Lady Fuji, an act just as impressive to this audience in its way. Once again, by finding himself in a jam, Blackthorne is also perfectly positioned to prove his worth to the man on whom his life depends. He is the luckiest unlucky man on television.

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Live Updates

Day 1 of jury selection underway in chad daybell case, idaho pronouns, sex definition bills advance in legislature.

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Mia Maldonado, Idaho Capital Sun

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BOISE ( Idaho Capital Sun ) — Idaho’s Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday advanced two bills related to changing Idaho’s legal definition of the word “sex,” and protecting public employees from discipline if they refuse to use a pronoun that doesn’t align with an individual’s birth sex.

The committee first passed House Bill 421 , which would change the legal definition of “sex” as “an individual’s biological sex, either male or female.” It would also consider the word gender as a synonym of that definition of sex, and create legal definitions of the words boy, father, female, girl, male and mother.

Its sponsor, Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, said the bill is a “cleanup bill for our definitions” that aligns with previously passed legislation. 

RELATED | Sex definition bill moves to Idaho House floor despite lack of support in public hearing

Only one person, Grace Howat, a representative of the Idaho Family Policy Center, testified in favor of the bill. Howat said without clear definitions of “female” and “male,” bathrooms and locker rooms become “meaningless.” 

Ten people testified against the bill, including Dr. Jessica Rolynn, a family medicine doctor based in southeast Idaho.

Rolynn said she has been studying human biology for the past 14 years, and there is “no such thing” as a binary in sex or gender. The bill, she said, does not take into account her patients who are intersex — or people with ambiguous genitalia at birth. 

“By combining gender and sex and limiting it to a binary, you are erasing American and world culture,” she said, while listing examples of gender diversity in different cultures. “This bill will do nothing but harm the people of Idaho.”

RELATED | Local legislator introduces bill to change legal definition of ‘sex’ in state law

Three senators, Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise; Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland; and Sen. Mary Shea, a substitute for Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, voted and spoke against the bill moving forward. 

“I also am really sitting here heavy on my heart with the statements that have been made by many people in this committee and many times over this Legislature that our constitution is to protect the minority,” Lee said. “And when we look at vulnerable, marginalized individuals who would be harmed — I think that that should matter to us.”

But the bill is still moving forward to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass from the committee. The bill already passed the House of Representatives in a 52-14 vote. 

Pronouns legislation protects freedom of speech, bill sponsors say

Following testimony for House Bill 421, many of the same people also testified for and against House Bill 538 — or what is commonly known as the pronouns bill. 

House Bill 538 would prohibit any government entity from compelling a public employee to use the preferred personal titles or pronouns that do not correspond with the biological sex of an individual.

Its bill sponsor, Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, said the bill is a freedom of speech bill and allows people to stick with their personal and religious beliefs without punishment. 

“This bill is not bullying,” Trakel said. “This bill is to protect freedom of speech. You cannot compel an individual to say what you want them to say, especially us as the government.”

Trakel said no individual is compelled to refer to him as “senator,” and people have the freedom to address him how they choose, even if it is disrespectful. 

“Respect is a two-way street, and we cannot legislate respect,” Trakel said. 

But opponents, including the ACLU of Idaho, said the bill would allow public employees to misgender transgender employees and students. 

“The bill violates several constitutional rights and federal anti-discrimination protections,” ACLU of Idaho legislative strategist Amy Dundon said during testimony. “It distorts the meaning of the Constitution and inappropriately invokes First Amendment protections by pitting equal treatment and privacy protections against speech.”

The committee in a 5-4 vote moved to advance the pronouns bill. With both bills moving past the committee, an affirmative vote on the Senate floor would secure the bills a spot on Idaho Gov. Little’s desk for consideration. 


What is Good Friday? What the holy day means for Christians around the world

meaning of freedom essays

Christians around the world observe Good Friday two days before Easter, but what is it, and why do they commemorate the holy day?

The holiday is part of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday kicks off the series of Christian holy days that commemorate the Crucifixion and celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection.

"Good Friday has been, for centuries now, the heart of the Christian message because it is through the death of Jesus Christ that Christians believe that we have been forgiven of our sins," Daniel Alvarez, an associate teaching professor of religious studies at Florida International University, told USA TODAY.

What is Holy Saturday? What the day before Easter means for Christians around the world

When is Good Friday?

Good Friday is always the Friday before Easter. It's the second-to-last day of Holy Week.

In 2024, Good Friday will fall on March 29.

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is the day Christ was sacrificed on the cross. According to Britannica , it is a day for "sorrow, penance, and fasting."

"Good Friday is part of something else," Gabriel Radle, an assistant professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, previously told USA TODAY. "It's its own thing, but it's also part of something bigger."

Are Good Friday and Passover related?

Alvarez says that Good Friday is directly related to the Jewish holiday, Passover.

Passover , or Pesach, is a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

"The whole Christian idea of atoning for sin, that Jesus is our atonement, is strictly derived from the Jewish Passover tradition," said Alvarez.

How is that possible?

According to the professor, Passover celebrates the day the "Angel of Death" passed over the homes of Israelites who were enslaved by the Egyptians. He said that the Bible states when the exodus happened, families were told to paint their doors with lamb's blood so that God would spare the lives of their firstborn sons.

Alvarez says this is why Christians call Jesus the "lamb of God." He adds that the symbolism of the "blood of the lamb" ties the two stories together and is why Christians believe God sacrificed his firstborn son. Because, through his blood, humanity is protected from the "wrath of a righteous God that cannot tolerate sin."

He adds that the stories of the exodus and the Crucifixion not only further tie the stories together but also emphasize just how powerful the sacrifice of the firstborn and the shedding of blood are in religion.

"Jesus is the firstborn, so the whole idea of the death of the firstborn is crucial," said Alvarez.

He adds that the sacrifice of the firstborn, specifically a firstborn son, comes from an ancient and "primitive" idea that the sacrifice unleashes "tremendous power that is able to fend off any kind of force, including the wrath of God."

Why Is Good Friday so somber?

Alavarez says people might think this holiday is more depressing or sad than others because of how Catholics commemorate the Crucifixion.

"I think [it's] to a level that some people might think is morbid," said Alvarez.

He said Catholics not only meditate on Jesus' death, but primarily focus on the suffering he faced in the events that led up to his Crucifixion. That's what makes it such a mournful day for people.

But, the professor says that Jesus' suffering in crucial to Christianity as a whole.

"The suffering of Christ is central to the four Gospels," said Alvarez. "Everything else is incidental."

According to the professor, statues that use blood to emphasize the way Jesus and Catholic saints suffered is very common in Spanish and Hispanic Countries, but not as prevalent in American churches.

Do you fast on Good Friday?

Father Dustin Dought, the executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, previously told USA TODAY that Good Friday and Ash Wednesday are the two days in the year that Roman Catholics are obliged to fast.

"This practice is a way of emptying ourselves so that we can be filled with God," said Dought.

What do you eat on Good Friday?

Many Catholics do not eat meat on any Friday during Lent. Anything with flesh is off-limits. Dought says this practice is to honor the way Jesus sacrificed his flesh on Good Friday.

Meat that is off limits includes:

Instead, many Catholics will eat fish. According to the Marine Stewardship Council , this is allowed because fish is considered to be a different type of flesh.

Contributing: Jordan Mendoza ; USA TODAY


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