What are the limits of our freedom

Limits of freedom

Freedom is a fundamental right. For the first time internationally, the rights of freedom were enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In Germany in particular, according to a survey, 32% of those questioned describe individual freedom as an important social and political value. According to the study "Freedom in the World 2016", which is carried out annually by Freedom House, Germany is a free country.

If you look at the concept of freedom philosophically, it affects almost all areas of human life. Fundamentally, however, freedom can be described as follows: It means the autonomy of an acting subject, which means that this subject can choose freely, i.e. without compulsion, between different possibilities. Almost every German today would see themselves as fundamentally free according to this definition. The act itself is considered free if it corresponds to the will of the subject. Whether the will itself is actually free, or whether it is influenced by natural laws and other external circumstances, is the fundamental question of an ongoing debate between humanities and natural scientists about free will. But are we actually as free as we think we are?

Philosophy distinguishes between negative and positive freedom. The negative or "freedom from something" exists when the person frees himself, there are no external constraints or restrictions that keep people from doing something. If there is negative freedom, then the person can choose between different options and act. Positive freedom, or “freedom to do something”, also means action; it occurs when the subject actually implements one of these possibilities and thus autonomously shapes its freedom. But being able to live and make decisions free of constraints does not mean that we can do what we want or not. Because that would inevitably lead to anarchy. Article two of the Basic Law relates, among other things, to the freedom of the person. "Everyone has the right to the free development of his personality as long as he does not violate the rights of others and does not violate the constitutional order or the moral law". This sentence shows that freedom has limitations. On the one hand, that in addition to one's own freedom there are other freedoms, namely those of others, which must not be violated or curtailed. Second, I am only allowed to be free within the legal framework and certain norms, values ​​and moral obligations, if I do not want my actions to be sanctioned. Anyone who goes shopping naked in the supermarket should not be surprised if they are arrested. So there are limits. Are these limits actually understood as a restriction of freedom, or can it be through these very limits that freedom exist in the first place? What is certain is that there is probably no such thing as unlimited freedom. Yet we feel free within these limits.

In Germany, everyone has the freedom to obtain information, for informational self-determination. The Internet gives us access to almost any information and has thus led to a democratization of knowledge. But this freedom in turn brings dangers, because on the Internet it applies not only to law-abiding citizens, but also to those who have bad intentions. At the latest after Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 about wiretapping and espionage activities by Western secret services, there was no longer any question of freedom on the Internet. The fear of terrorism or cyber crime has led to the fact that the personal data of almost everyone can be recorded and stored in advance. So we are only apparently free on the Internet. Our decisions can only be free to a limited extent when it comes to our everyday life. If you are in the supermarket, you have a seemingly limitless range of products from which we can freely choose. But we are also influenced in this area. Advertising that advertises us the best and newest product and a certain social pressure rub off on our decisions. In addition, it is no longer just about the possibility of being able to make a decision, but rather about having to decide, despite all the diversity, what does not really go together with the actual meaning of freedom. The freedom that we experience and live is therefore not complete freedom, but one that has limits and restrictions within which people can freely decide and act. Paradoxically, it seems that we have to restrict certain freedoms in order to ultimately be free. So freedom can make you pretty unfree.