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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

Balancing the Freedoms -Aman

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein 

He is free to be responsible for his actions, he is accountable for what he does. He is free to do what he wants, for example he can break certain rules he does not find tolerable. He is a free man, both positively and negatively.

When I first found this quote, I did not think it possible for one human to have positive freedom and negative freedom. How can one person fulfil their potential while being free to do and not necessarily fearing the consequences? The way I see my journey in life is that it is full of obstacles and struggles before I can reach my goals, before I can fulfil the act of being. I believe that every action I take will have a consequence and that is something I weigh before I take that action because those consequences scare me. What I see myself having is positive freedom.

If however, I was on a path with negative freedom. My goals would be reached with nothing restraining me. I would have millions of doors open for me and I would be able to open all of them, if I wanted to. I would be free to do what I wanted without necessarily fearing the consequences because it just is.

Writing this though, I now realize maybe one person can live with both freedoms. A person can fulfil their potential while opening every door available. One can break the rules to get what they want, therefore jumping obstacles and not fully being afraid of the consequences. Maybe, just maybe to fully reach our potential, we need to live with both freedoms. We need to step outside of the box and have the world at our feet with negative freedom and we need to take the proverbial horse by the reigns and take control of our lives with positive freedom.

Because, if we think about this mathematically they balance each other out, one positive +/- one negative = 0. And we know in life we always need balance; Ying and Yang, black and white, good and bad. Balance is in life and these freedoms are no different. They may be opposites but we, as humans, have the ability to access them both and maybe that’s what makes some of us so great. Maybe for us to be truly successful, all we need to do is balance out the freedoms.



8 thoughts on “Balancing the Freedoms -Aman

  1. Interesting perspective. However, if you chose to take an opportunity, you then receive the potential to succeed in that opportunity. Therefore, what you initial may have thought as negative freedom, is no longer negative freedom, but rather positive freedom. With that, can you truly say that it was ever considered negative freedom to start with?
    What i would consider Negative freedom is an act which you cannot receive potential to achieve, such as going to Jupiter.
    Great passage tho 🙂

    Posted by thelaserbeam17 | September 9, 2013, 5:32 am
  2. To clarify on my remark about Jupiter, Since its a gas planet one cannot actually step on foot on its surface, therefore, being considered negative freedom.

    Posted by thelaserbeam17 | September 9, 2013, 5:35 am
    • Hello,

      First of all, thank you. 🙂 Second of all, I think you bring up some very interesting points concerning positive and negative freedom. In our class today we briefly discussed people looking at negative and positive freedom as potentially “good” and “bad”, and maybe that’s what I did with the mathematical side of my blog post. I said that they balance each other out, but your comment has made me think that maybe that’s not the case. Personally, with your question, I do think it is negative freedom to start out with, and then it morphs into positive freedom because you take control of an opportunity that is there for you. So maybe instead of being one or the other, there’s areas of grey between the two. The way I think of it is this: if there’s all the doors open for you in the world with negative freedom, not all of them can be unachievable, therefore making it positive freedom when you finally do turn the knob and decide to step over the threshold and begin your journey.

      Posted by amanmonkey | September 10, 2013, 5:17 am
  3. Thanks for this quote and reflection, Aman – I like where you’ve taken this thought-piece as well, and agree that elements of each positive and negative freedoms effect society and its individuals in some way, shape or form. But I wonder if they operate in equal and opposing measure, as you’ve outlined here. In other words, do they necessarily = 0? How else might they operate?

    Posted by bryanjack | September 9, 2013, 10:45 pm
    • Hi Mr. Jackson,

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. As you might see in the comment above, I have come to the conclusion that maybe positive and negative freedom don’t balance each other out or = 0. I have pondered that maybe they can morph into each other and aren’t as polar opposites as we might like to believe. The way I personally see it is that, if there’s millions of possibilities for you with negative freedom, not all of them can be so far fetched as going to Mars by yourself. There has to be a few that are attainable, otherwise how do we know what we want and what we can do? Arguably, our hopes and aspirations can be seen as negative freedom, and then once we start our journey to attain them, it becomes positive freedom. For example, curing cancer is an opportunity we have, and scientists and researchers are grabbing that idea in their fists and running with it. 70 years ago that would have been as far fetched as going to the moon, but now everyday we are closer and closer. So I am starting to think that maybe they operate by leading into one another and maybe they are not as different as we might think.


      Posted by amanmonkey | September 10, 2013, 5:25 am
  4. A person born on earth, and a person who has the misfortune to be born on Jupiter, might have the same internal soft of freedom, where they state (and believe) “I alone am responsible for my actions,” and yet the person on earth can do some simple things (like walk, breathe the atmosphere, stay alive) that the person on Jupiter cannot.

    This tells us that there are types of freedom that are internal and personal, based on one’s attitudes and beliefs, and types of freedoms that are external, which are environmental conditions that exist independently of what we think about them. We might call the first ‘personal freedom’ and the second ‘social freedom’ or ‘environmental freedom’.

    One particular type of freedom, which might be called ‘environmental positive freedom’, or as I would prefer, ‘environmental freedom-to’, is known generally in the literature as ‘affordances’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordance

    Posted by Stephen Downes | September 10, 2013, 2:55 pm
    • Hello Mr. Downes,

      Thank you for commenting on this post and thank you for sharing your thoughts as well as the other types of freedoms. I will definitely look into them as they sound very thought provoking.


      Posted by amanmonkey | September 11, 2013, 5:31 pm


  1. Pingback: Aman 2013/2014 | Philosophy 12 - November 13, 2013

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