The Realization of Freedom

    We understand that humans have free will. How should we apply this freedom? At this point, it is helpful to differentiate three kinds of freedom. First, freedom of will is the ability to desire this or that action. It must, by its nature, exist outside the laws of physics, because the laws of physics do not contain any concept of will, only determinism and randomness. Because we have freedom of will, and freedom of will is not physical, it must be based somewhere other than our physical bodies. As a corollary, freedom of will cannot be lost by any physical mechanism, such as imprisonment. However, you can use your freedom of will to choose to ignore your freedom. By losing hope, you can allow your body and your environment to determine your actions and your fate. Freedom of will is also called metaphysical freedom and is the type of freedom that is most often discussed in philosophy.

    Second, freedom of action is the ability to actually do this or that action. Freedom of action can be lost, for example, through addiction, imprisonment, or fear. As freedom of will is misused, freedom of action is lost. As you use drugs or pornography, your body builds up a chemical dependence. Even if you want to stop, the addiction builds a physical barrier that can be extremely difficult to overcome. As you steal or murder, you will be imprisoned. As you lie, you will not be trusted with responsibility. If you abuse your free will, you violate that which is called natural law. It was built into nature by God as the creator of nature. The vast majority of the universe has no choice but to obey God's will. When a rock is dropped, it falls. It does not have a choice in the matter. For a rock, the law of nature is absolute. However, we do have a choice, so for us the law of nature is not absolute. There is, though, a penalty for breaking God's law. Aside from the pain that usually results, there is a loss of freedom of action. Freedom of action is also called physical freedom, and is the type of freedom most often discussed in politics or economics.

    Third, freedom of realization is the ability of an action to affect reality. Freedom of realization is lost when your actions are not consistent with the expectations of the environment. For example, if you are in a healthy company, designing a useful device will cause that device to be produced and sold by the company. When your device is sold to millions, your actions have been realized. If you are in an unhealthy company, designing a useful device may cause you to be fired, and your actions will never be realized. In a much more fundamental sense, freedom of realization is lost when your actions are not consistent with God's will. Which will cause you to have a greater influence in the world, to work with or against the master of creation? In the short term, it may seem to make sense to turn against God, but in the long term there is only God. It is great foolishness to cleave to that which is temporary and struggle against that which is eternal.

    So we see that if we want to maximize freedom of action and freedom of realization, we must turn our freedom of will towards God. This statement is in conflict with popular opinion in the Western world, where freedom is defined as doing whatever you want, as long as it does not directly hurt other people. In practice, however, other people often excludes those such as the unborn, because of "the freedom to choose," or the poor, because of "the freedom of the market." A proper understanding of freedom leads us to realize that the greatest freedom comes from turning towards God. Any other action leads to less freedom.

    The natural law is written by God in our bodies, our minds, and in the very structure of the universe. Does this mean that we can follow whatever urges we have, because they are "natural"? No. We must check our urges to see if they are in tune with the design of the universe. If they are, they should be encouraged; and if they are not, they should be resisted. To pick one example, even though a mother may desire to kill her child, it is not correct. Her body was designed to have children. Without children, the human race dies. When she breastfeeds, her body releases the hormone oxytocin, which leads to bonding. This tells us that it is natural for a mother to take care of her child and unnatural to do her child harm.

    At times, the law of nature is not easy to interpret. However, there is another law, the greater one, which can be learned by looking at God's nature more directly. We know that God is all-knowing, so God can tell good from evil, and all-good, so that God loves good. Therefore, that which God loves is good. It is best if we love what God loves. This means that because God loves God's own self, it is good to love God; and because God loves God's creation, it is good to love God's creation; and because God loves us, it is good to love each other and ourselves. It is evil to do the reverse of these things.

    Now, why does God allow us to go against God's will? Wouldn't we be good if we could not choose evil? God's love for us is great enough, that God will allow us to turn away from God, if we so desire. If, in the end, we return God's love, it will be greater because it was freely given. "No one can act rightly except by free choice of the will, and God gave us free choice in order to enable us to act rightly." (St. Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will, book II, section 18).

This page was last changed on 2011/08/28