Guest Post: The Metaphysics Of Freedom

Tyler Durden's picture

The next post in a continuing series (Most recently, "The Twin Pillars Of Civilization") by Free Radical

The Metaphysics of Freedom

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.
– Albert Camus

What individuals fundamentally seek is order, by which we do not mean regimentation but harmony, i.e., “a pleasing combination of the elements in a whole,” wherein the whole is the wholeness of one’s life. And because such order is virtually impossible to attain in isolation (even hermetic monks live in a society of shared belief, without which their mode of existence would be devoid of meaning), individuals socialize for this reason, and naturally so. For insofar as there is order in nature (and of course there is astounding order), freedom – which is inherent, for instance, in the random variation that is integral to the evolutionary process – is the cause, not the effect, of it. So too, then, is freedom in the human realm “the Mother, not the Daughter, of order,” it being but the conscious application of its counterpart in the natural realm. And thus is freedom the sine qua non of human civilization – the foundation upon which its twin pillars stand – without which the order that its individual members yearn for cannot be generally attained or continually increased.

But not just any freedom. For while freedom is indispensable to the social enterprise, complete freedom is destructive of it, resulting not in order but in chaos, as each does whatever he wants, regardless of what others may or may not want. “Anything goes,” in other words, and thus does libertinism render civil society null and void amid a literal free-for-all of untempered action.

Moreover, while we accept the determinism whereby “man is free as long as his own will is one of the steps in the causal chain,” we reject the determinism whereby “every event in the future is fated to happen,” as this too results in chaos. For if our actions are purely a matter of fate – if we have no choice in what we do – then we have no responsi-bility for what we do. And if we have no responsibility for what we do, then there can be no moral content in our actions. As with libertinism, then, so with fatalism, as there is again no right or wrong. Once again, “anything goes” for the simple reason that everything was already going to be. And thus does “the chance to be better” have literally no chance, there being no standard by which to gauge it. Better than what, after all? Better than bad? But there is no bad, just as there is no good. 

Thus do the extremes of freedom and determinism result in meaninglessness, which is to say, in absurdity. And to avoid it, we reject both libertinism and fatalism by accepting – by embracing – the fact that while freedom is a metaphysical reality, it can have no meaning in the human realm without restraints being placed upon it, the task for society being to determine what the minimum restraints are that it might maximize the opportuni-ty for its individual members to improve their lot in life. To generate more order. To be better.

And we address that orderly betterment in my next submission: “The Natural Law of Civil Society.”

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cdude's picture

res ipsa loquitur

Quixotic_Not's picture

Illegitimi non carborundum...

dark pools of soros's picture

you gotta have some rules or the score doesn't matter

CH1's picture

Score? Why would I want to keep score?

NOTW777's picture

True freedom is only possible through Jesus Christ

colorfulbliss's picture

What a way to totally fuck up a good discussion.....troll.

Nothing in this universe is more detrimental to freedom than religion.

piceridu's picture

+ the age of the universe...not the biblical one.

RichardP's picture

The Bible doesn't state an age for the Universe.  Other than In the beginning ...  It doesn't say when that beginning was.

snowball777's picture

Like most creation MYTHS.

Jean Valjean's picture

Including the myth of Darwinian Evolution.

cosmictrainwreck's picture

yeah, I'm still baffled at why the Darwinists don't get the violation of 2nd thermo law = any evolution that took place necessarily had an external Cause.... of course you can't sell that one to the fundamentalists, either; hence the same old pissing contest 

Edmon Plume's picture

If you think this meaningless, wrist-slitting, existential navel-gazing qualifies as a "good discussion" then I think you should at least consider "love your neighbor as yourself," and "peace on earth good will toward men" as an alternative.  If nothing else, the latter makes an objective distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, which is a distinction necessary to man's search for meaning.

And it's more in line with empirical observation of the world around us than is science.

hardcleareye's picture

The right wing fundamentalist Christians found in America are such wonderful examples of "peace on earth..."? NOT!!!!!!

These people have self proclaimed "high moral standards" but ineffective consciences. 

They talk the talk but are incapable of walking the walk!!!!

What disgusting hypocrites!!!! 

Kopfjager's picture

I'm sold.  Which church should I give all my money to?  

HL Shancken's picture

“ There must be no let up in the war against religion, because, as long as religions exist, communism cannot prevail. We must intensify the destruction of all religions, where ever they are being practiced and taught.”


Mikhail Gorbachev 1986


Kopfjager's picture

You're missing the point.  Red Square?  God's Kingdom?  They're both cradle to grave welfare systems.  They both fear independent thinkers.  

American's should know better than to bow to a King.  


"Submit and work for nothing more than the love of your neighbor."  Never heard anything so evil... 

What_Me_Worry's picture

A profoundly ironic statement.

LeBalance's picture

"For if our actions are purely a matter of fate – if we have no choice in what we do – then we have no responsi-bility for what we do. And if we have no responsibility for what we do, then there can be no moral content in our actions. As with libertinism, then, so with fatalism, as there is again no right or wrong."

This space of possible actions is there to be sampled as you need it.  The exact actions you need will be those that you engage in by agreement of everyone else that is here.  That is how the tapestry gets woven.  Morals are the fascination of judgment.  It does not matter what the actions are that you need, you will do them.  If you need to be a holy monk you will be, if you need to be a drunken women beater you will be.  And you will find your place in the tapestry every single time you take the stage.

There are just too many people on the judgment bandwagon, with too many different rules sets for it to be of any merit.  So at more macro levels, judgment and borders of morals is just hilariously inconsistent.

Find someone who wants to label someone else a "bad" person and you'll find a person with a cute agenda in which they see themselves as better.  No one is better.  Everyone is getting exactly what they need.

And as far as peace versus chaos.  It's half chaos.  The yin / yang is half dark, so its half chaos.  Its a fractal, you can go infinitely in any direction you choose.

Who knows what the order / chaos mix is of "this" place.  Could be more chaos?!  Somewhere else might balance out with more order, so here could be lots of chaos.

That's interesting.

Implicit simplicit's picture

The conundrum of freedom and moralty: 

Many in power (politicians) feel that they are smarter and know more, or that they are morally superior than others, hence, they must restrain the wrongly thought out free choice of other people. After all, they are the leaders. They are even convinced that it is not only alright, but necessary to continually lie in order to propagate their wishes (usually paid for). The deeper conundrum is that in order to attain power they needed to have this type of prejudicial demeanor to begin with. The majority of power seeking individual with this type of thinking eventually leads to fascism. It is already here.

Ideas of freedom and morality are quite relative to situations and individuals. Acceptance of differences is a higher form of consciousness that allows people to arrive at intellectual freedom; not accepting injustices is also a higher freedom choice.


blunderdog's picture

Nah, man, prison of your own mind.  There's no use clinging to the assumption that anyone else EVER shares your view of the universe.

Just no use.  The map is not the territory, and none of us were ever very good cartographers in the first place.

Implicit simplicit's picture

I hope not, but certainly there must be like minded maniacs!

 Consciousness creates art, life imitates art, then it becomes a fad and is ruined because people are really not into it, they are just pretending.

blunderdog's picture

The greatest crime that ever occurred was the propagation of the myth that "what people want" is somehow, in itself, unattainable.

It's the rare man who is focused on what makes his own life worth living.  If enough of us retain that focus, our problems are solved.

Edmon Plume's picture

Somehow that doesn't give me comfort.  What makes bernanke's life worth living, or obama's life worth living, or taking it up a notch - stalin's life worth living, is no solution at all.  God forbid we focus on what makes Armin Meiwes's life worth living.  Certainly he was focused on what made his life worth living, and it didn't work out so well for his guests.

You're back to the same struggle the author fails - but pretends - to escape, and that is the necessity of a standard.

Jean Valjean's picture

By the way, the standard is perfection and we all fall short.  As "Le" may agree, we are all "bad".  Which is why ultimately, the comment by NOTW777 is true regardless of all the humanist junking.  Do all you 19 junkers actually think you don't practice a religion?  Ha!

blunderdog's picture

Nah, there's no standard.  Not only doesn't there "need" to be one, there CANNOT be one.

Stalin was just another asshole.  50,000,000 people didn't get murdered because of ONE GUY.

Edmon Plume's picture

Without a standard, you have no grounds upon which to think ill of Stalin, and no ground upon which to lay a charge of murder on anyone, regardless of how high or low the body count is.

blunderdog's picture

Not sure why this doesn't seem to be getting across...there is no "external" standard, or "objective" standard, and any prevalent view which becomes formalized is a step in the wrong direction, because it ends up limiting the potential of the individuals who may have the ability and inspiration to achieve something great.

You can either do something or not.  If you don't do something, sitting around and talking to other people about what OTHER PEOPLE SHOULD DO is not constructive.

Your standard is your own, and you do what you must because you are who you are. 

It sounds like you're completely failing to grasp my point here about Stalin.  He contributed in whatever manner he did to what happened last century, along with millions of other people.  He was just another raindrop in the storm, like your grandfather, like some Russian peasant who didn't kill Stalin in his youth in a bigoted anti-Georgian bloodrage, like Roosevelt who allied with him, like whoever else. 

You can't eliminate the "evil" outliers any more than you can duplicate the "good" ones.

Milestones's picture

Basically I like what you say-it's flair and style; but I got stumped by "Everyone is getting exactly what they need." Rather harsh judgment don't you think?

I agree totally, we have a shitstorm coming; not necessarily from what and where we expect. The entire way we govern and organize ourselves will be of critical importance. What we have today is toast. We have the burden of 2,000 years of stupidity that must be weeded out; and that includes the 800 lb animial sitting in our living room. 

My rant for the nite. Ciao       Milestones

pan-the-ist's picture

I agree with your point.  I'd add that the poster's relating freedom to randomness shows his lack of understanding of randomness.

Taking his definition, is it of any benefit to a moral compass knowing that your decision were "random" rather than "decided" (whatever that means.)

BTW, LeBalance, ever heard of NKS?

Dragline's picture

Oh, spare us the dramatic build-up.  Just watch this instead:

Does this person have anything new or different to say?


Sophist Economicus's picture

The answer in a word is.....



Implicit simplicit's picture

Priceless. This person is more into Kant, but who isn't.

blunderdog's picture

Yah. Totally.  Outtasight.

It's times like this I'm reminded of the ancient sacred mantra:

om sohye wah dafuk

Repeat that as necessary and you will achieve enlightenment.

RichardP's picture

... man is free as long as his own will is one of the steps in the causal chain ...

What part does anyone's will play in whether they are born?  In whether they are male or female?  In whether they are caucasian or negroid?  In whether their mother ingested the vitamins necessary for proper neural growth while pregnant with them?  In whether they were nurtured and educated properly.  And so on ...

I've listed a few of the fundamental factors in the causal chain in which a person's will does not participate.  There are many more.  Reasonable people will agree that these fundamental factors seriously constrain the choices that will be made available to a person over the course of their life, and their will was not a participant in the causal chain.  Are such people not free?

Man's freedom is constrained before he is born.  As is his free will.  As are his choices (males can't choose to become pregnant, females can, etc.)

Withdrawn Sanction's picture


Indeed, one does not have control over one’s birth, sex, race, etc.  Such attributes function as constraints on our choice set but they are not ethical considerations per se.  It is rather, only those choices we make, given our choice set, that qualify as moral/ethical.   You cannot, in other words, hold a man morally responsible for his racial makeup (or his height, or eye color, or the zip code of his birthplace) because he had no choice in the matter.   That man can, however, be held responsible for the choices he subsequently makes within his constrained choice set, and his character (or lack of it) will be built from the bricks of such choices.   


Does the presence of constraint invalidate free will?  No, it merely establishes the ontological framework within which we do choose.  Does the fact that we MUST choose invalidate free will?   No, the inescapability of choice (even refusing to choose is a choice) simply establishes another ontological constraint.   THAT we must choose, does not determine WHAT we do in fact choose. 


RichardP's picture

THAT we must choose, does not determine WHAT we do in fact choose.

I'm ok with that so long as we are aware that we don't all have the same choice sets available to us - for reasons that have nothing to do with our free will.  That is the point I was addressing.  The conversation below about knowing the harness continues this point.  Some folks will never have the ability to know that the harness exists, much less know what it is for them.  Being able to choose requires a mental skill set that some folks will never posses.  To simply pick is not the same thing as choosing.  Choosing implies a cognitive, rational basis for preferrring one over the others.

Free will is a burden for those who lack the ability to make rational choices.  For proof, see the lives of the mentally incompetent who were dumped out of mental facilities and onto local communities by a relatively recent administration.

snowball777's picture

And how, if we were not actually possessed of free will, would we know?


revenue_anticipation_believer's picture

"You have freedom when you're easy in your harness" by Robert Frost

Freedom is understanding the structural reality framework within which you are constrained... that framework is the "Harness" "necessity"

We speak..within communal language be somewhere ELSE in the World, THAT structure/language is worthless...and you, english speaker, become 'unfree'

yet, within your own language speakers, you are free, given time to freely correctly/truely express/say....far more than a random million monkeys at typewriters could stumble upon..

We live within a biological human physical body, those limits can be exceeded/stressed/abused...and this chaotic life style is NOT freedom,

it is a rebellion against the truth/necessity necessity/limits must be properly known, 'know thyself' and more simply yet "Knowledge shall set you free"

freedom is not chaos, where there is no possible meaningful action, no framework, the 'wheel' has to be re-invented over and over,

when EXISTING/KNOWN conventions invented by society, "good manners" time proven...will work...leaving room for the 'freedom to be'


In todays financial world, there is no possible way, actually, to estimate within a stable framework of reference, NO FREEDOM

to estimate the NPV of anything,

nor even the value of the unit of value = currency unit valuation...

there is actually no exit,

no possible planning,

no freedom...

just illusions...

only those WHO KNOW what they have planned to happen, which did happen..are financially FREE ....

they don't bet the market turns,

they CREATE THE MARKET TURNS, all bets for those FREE in their knowledge of the future THAT THEY HAVE PLANNED...are FREE...the ultimate 'insider pre-knowledge"

CH1's picture

Being harnessed is freedom. War is peace. Weakness is strength.


Terminus C's picture

you confuse "being harnessed" with "knowing the harness"

Terminus C's picture

Freedom is understanding the structural reality framework within which you are constrained... that framework is the "Harness"


Right, this social harness guides who we are and what we can do. 


Freedom is directly correlational to knowledge of the social rules.  The more you know about the rules the more you can do.  This is how power structures are formed within societies. 


In other words, the more you know about your harness the more free you are.

CH1's picture

Thomas Jefferson
Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany 1819
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Found it here:

anonnn's picture

Thanks for that, CH1.

I used the definition "liberty is freedom from tyanny", but omitted the handling of tyranny using "equal rights of others"...which makes it much more workable.


Terminus C's picture

Good post, I love The philosoph.


I don't think that there is such a thing as a distinction between freedom and determination.  We can only do what we do.  We are slaves of time.  As for the question of morality I think the answer is in your exploration of the social nature of beings.  When we make decisions they have consequenses.  These consequenses have positive and negative connotations on our being.


While our functioning is not so simple it can be broken down to the "pleasure principle"  We seek what is best for us.  I suppose we have some freedom in determining (u c wut i did thar) what is in our best interest but as RichardP noted, our environment determines much of who we are and what we value.



RichardP's picture

... and what we can choose.  Males and females face different choices.  The nourished and the malnourished face different choices.  The educated and the uneducated face difference choices.  ... the structural reality framework within which [we] are constrained... that framework is the "Harness" [called] "necessity".