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Freedom: Fragile Fiction

  1. Aug 17, 2008 #1
    Freedom: Fragile Fiction

    I am shackled hand and foot spread eagle on the floor of my cell. I ask my jailer everyday to set me free. Finally he compassionately sets me free.

    For days I am exhilarated with the ability to freely pace about my cell. After a few weeks I begin to beg my jailer to set me free. After weeks he, being a compassionate man, sets me free from my cell.

    For days I am exhilarated at the freedom to wonder about and speak with other inmates. After several weeks I begin to beg my jailer to free me and finally he relents and releases me from jail. I am overwhelmed with the sense of freedom until I, overcome with hunger and basic needs, seek some work so as to feed myself.

    I find a job working on an assembly line and am exhilarated at the new found freedom. After a year I begin to seek other less strenuous and repetitive assembly line work. I wish to free myself from this robotic work I do everyday.

    What is the ‘telos’ (ultimate end) of this series of ever persistent desire for freedom? Is hunger for freedom similar to hunger for food, never satiated? I don’t think so. I think the search for freedom can culminate in an ultimate and satisfying end.

    Freedom, I suspect, is a search for self-determination. When we feel that we are master of our domain, when we are free to determine who we are and what we need to be our self we will have reached that ‘telos’ of freedom. I suspect this end is as unique as a finger print, it is an act of creation and can be made conscious to me only by me.

    I think each of us must learn for our self what we need to secure freedom’s ‘telos’. Probably most of us find only a degree of freedom, but if we never stop looking we may continue finding more of it.

    “Man’s freedom is a fabricated freedom, and he pays a price for it. He must at all times defend the utter fragility of his constituted fiction, deny its artificiality.”

    There are four levels of reactivity of an organism to its environment: 1) Simplest response wherein the organism responds directly to stimuli, 2) Conditioned response is best represented by the “Pavalovian Response” wherein there is a response by association, 3) Indirect association takes place when a tool is used to acquire desired object (an ape knocking a banana from a tree with a stick), and 4) Symbolic response wherein a symbol becomes the object causing response, which entails the creation of a symbol representative of an object.

    These four different responses are evolutionary but are different in kind. Only humans are capable of all four levels of reactivity. Only humans have the capacity for creating a relationship such as “home” with an object made of sticks of lumber. We might appropriately state that the evolutionary development of mind is a “progressive freedom of reactivity”. “Mind culminates in the organism’s ability to choose what it will react to.”

    Delayed reactivity is the birth of freedom; this ability, plus the mammalian evolution of long prolonged development of new born growing up into a society that demanded ever increasing norms of behavior, led to the further development of mind.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2008 #2


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    Is this an actual scientific conclusion? Or is this just an assertion you are making?

    Is this an actual scientific conclusion? Or is this just an assertion you are making?

    That sounds patently false....
  4. Aug 18, 2008 #3
    These are my conclusions based upon observation, study, and judgment.
  5. Aug 18, 2008 #4


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    Form point -- I'm going to insist that you appropriately document your sources. (this is me speaking as a moderator, rather than someone just engaging you in discussion)

    You make strong claims, and apparently contradict reality. (e.g. that animals don't have a notion of "home") Since your posting on a philosophy forum on a scientific website, rather than preaching from Delphi, I'm going to have to ask that you justify for these claims. (Or, at the very least, argue that they are sufficiently plausible)
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2008
  6. Aug 18, 2008 #5
    Maturing Infant Becomes a Captive of Society

    Human character has become a symbolic one as it becomes more and more a social creature. The survival of the Homo sapiens species is no longer a result of natural selection but is a result of artificial selection; it is dependent upon the nature of the symbolic codes we SELECT to live by.

    Seeking self-esteem is what we humans do; the question becomes ‘do we continue to be reactive as we are taught or do we become proactive as our self-constructed autodidactic comprehension guides us’.

    If instinct is no longer the primary force driving the human species, i.e. this animal that is more than just animal, what is the motivating factor driving the life of wo/man?

    The “clinical theories of Adler, as well as Sullivan, Rank, Fromm, Horney, and a growing number of young and undogmatic Freudians” identify “that the basic law of human life is the urge to self-esteem”.

    As the infant matures s/he becomes the passive captor of a need to be accepted, first, by the mother, and then society. The maturing child has shaped herself into the very person who can take for granted that he meets or exceeds what is demanded; s/he gains self-esteem and a growing sense of belonging, with confidence in a developing sense of self-righteousness as a growing natural systematic continuation of the early ego efforts to handle anxiety.

    Maturation becomes an extension of the infant’s ego struggle against anxiety. Self-esteem becomes the core of human adaptation; this human self-adaptation replaces the animal’s biological instinct as the means for adaptation to a changing world. The maturing child discovers that s/he cannot earn parental and social approval, i.e. self-esteem, by continuing to express himself with his body. S/he discovers that he must conduct himself in strict accordance to symbolic codes in order to find approval.

    The maturing child’s growing sense of self-worth has become artificialized; self-worth is now dependent upon “linguistic contrivances”. “He has become the only animal in nature that vitally depends on a symbolic constitution of his worth.” The remainder of this creature’s life is animated by the “artificial symbolism of self-worth”.

    Our character has become social as it becomes more and more a symbolic one. The survival of the Homo sapiens species is no longer a result of natural selection but is a result of artificial selection; it is dependent upon the nature of the symbolic codes we select to live by.

    How can we become proactive; rather than reactive as we have been schooled? I think we can do so when we have taught our self to recognize the difference. What do you think?

    Ideas and quotes from “The Birth and Death of Meaning” Ernest Becker

    Humans have become symbolic creatures because humans create meaning. We are animals no longer principally controlled by biological instincts but are creatures controlled by our fictional creations. Symbolic creations are such things as nation, religion, sports team, fashion, consumerism, etc.

    All animals are born with instincts but humans have overridden these instincts with the aid of our ego.

    The ego is our command center; it is the “internal gyroscope” and creator of time for the human. It controls the individual; especially it controls individual’s response to the external environment. It keeps the individual independent from the environment by giving the individual time to think before acting. It is the device that other animal do not have and thus they instinctively respond immediately to the world.

    The id is our animal self. It is the human without the ego control center. The id is reactive life and the ego changes that reactive life into delayed thoughtful life. The ego is also the timer that provides us with a sense of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. By doing so it makes us into philosophical beings conscious of our self as being separate from the ‘other’ and placed in a river of time with a terminal point—death. This time creation allows us to become creatures responding to symbolic reality that we alone create.

    As a result of the id there is a “me” to which everything has a focus of being. The most important job the ego has is to control anxiety that paradoxically the ego has created. With a sense of time there comes a sense of termination and with this sense of death comes anxiety that the ego embraces and gives the “me” time to consider how not to have to encounter anxiety.

    Evidence indicates that there is an “intrinsic symbolic process” is some primates. Such animals may be able to create in memory other events that are not presently going on. “But intrinsic symbolization is not enough. In order to become a social act, the symbol must be joined to some extrinsic mode; there must exist an external graphic mode to convey what the individual has to express…but it also shows how separate are the worlds we live in, unless we join our inner apprehensions to those of others by means of socially agreed symbols.”

    “What they needed for a true ego was a symbolic rallying point, a personal and social symbol—an “I”, in order to thoroughly unjumble himself from his world the animal must have a precise designation of himself. The “I”, in a word, has to take shape linguistically…the self (or ego) is largely a verbal edifice…The ego thus builds up a world in which it can act with equanimity, largely by naming names.” The primate may have a brain large enough for “me” but it must go a step further that requires linguistic ability that permits an “I” that can develop controlled symbols with “which to put some distance between him and immediate internal and external experience.”

    I conclude from this that many primates have the brain that is large enough to be human but in the process of evolution the biological apparatus that makes speech possible was the catalyst that led to the modern human species. The ability to emit more sophisticated sounds was the stepping stone to the evolution of wo/man. This ability to control the vocal sounds promoted the development of the human brain.

    Ideas and quotes from “Birth and Death of Meaning”—Ernest Becker

    We Are Meaning Creating Creatures

    The great truth of human nature is that wo/man strives for meaning. S/he imposes on raw experience symbolic categories of thought, and does so with conceptual structures of thought. “All human problems are, in the last resort, problems of the soul.”—Otto Rank

    In the nineteenth century, after two hundred years of opposition paradigms, science faced the dilemma: if we make wo/man to be totally an object of science, to be as this object merely a conglomeration of atoms and wheels then where is there a place for freedom? How can such a collection of mere atoms be happy, and fashion the Good Life?

    The best thinkers of the Enlightenment followed by the best of the nineteenth century were caught in the dilemma of a materialistic psychology. Does not the inner wo/man disappear when humans are made into an object of science? On the other hand if we succumb to the mode of the middle Ages, when the Church kept man firmly under the wraps of medieval superstitions, do we not give up all hope for self-determined man?

    “Yet, we want man to be the embodiment of free, undetermined subjectivity, because this is the only thing that keeps him interesting in all of nature…It sums up the whole tragedy of the Enlightenment vision of science.” There are still those who would willingly surrender wo/man to Science because of their fear of an ever encroaching superstitious enemy.

    Kant broke open this frustrating dilemma. By showing that sapiens could not know nature in its stark reality, that sapiens had no intellectual access to the thing-in-itself, that humans could never know a nature that transcended their epistemology, Kant “defeated materialistic psychology, even while keeping its gains. He centered nature on man, and so made psychology subjective; but he also showed the limitations of human perceptions in nature, and so he could be objective about them, and about man himself. In a word man was at once, limited creature, and bottomless mystery, object and subject…Thus it kept the best of materialism, and guaranteed more than materialism ever could: the protection of man’s freedom, and the preservation of his inner mystery.”

    After Kant, Schilling illuminated the uniqueness of man’s ideas, and the limitations from any ideal within nature. Schilling gave us modern wo/man. Materialism and idealism was conjoined. Wo/man functioned under the aegis of whole ideas, just as the idealists wanted, and thus man became an object of science while maintaining freedom of self-determination.

    The great truth of the nineteenth century was that produced by William Dilthey, which was what wo/man constantly strived for. “It was “meaning” said Dilthey, meaning is the great truth about human nature. Everything that lives, lives by drawing together strands of experience as a basis for its action; to live is to act, to move forward into the world of experience…Meaning is the relationship between parts of experience.” Man does not do this drawing together on the basis of simple experience but on the basis of concepts. Man imposes symbolic categories of thought on raw experience. His conception of life determines the manner in which s/he values all of its parts.

    Concludes Dilthey, meaning “is the comprehensive category through which life becomes comprehensible…Man is the meaning-creating animal.”

    Does it make sense to you that “All human problems are, in the last resort, problems of the soul”??

    Quotes and ideas from “Beyond Alienation” Becker
  7. Aug 18, 2008 #6
    I am afraid that I must agree with hyrkyl's judgement on the last bit, but your initial points seem valid for disscussion.

    I think we will find that the 'telos', as you put it, of freedom lies in the way in which we define the concept of 'freedom'. It would be tedious to list all the various possible definitions of freedom (and I am sure you can think of most yourself), so I will simply give the one that seems to be the most logical and objective:

    Freedom: The ability to take any/all action/s that are biologically possible.
    (However one must not forget that, in a communal society, this definition does not preclude social accountability and consequence.)

    I think any organism asking and wishing for more than that, is taking part in a wilful delusion. And it would most certainly explain why some may feel more than a little unsatisfied or entitled.
  8. Aug 18, 2008 #7


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    Okay... but what part answered my challenge? I can't find it buried in the avalance of text you posted. Neither your opening paragraph nor final comments appear to bear on the issue of how 'reactivity' is characterized, the exclusivity of some levels of 'reactivity' to humans, or whether animals have a concept of "home". Furthermore, your post doesn't contain any obvious organizational hints that would help me locate your response. And when skimming your text (particularly the bold passages), I didn't notice anything relevant.
  9. Aug 19, 2008 #8

    Home is a symbol. When is a house a home? Home is where the heart is. Home is an abstract idea going far beyond the literal meaning of house, i.e. shelter, of an animals territory. When I was a kid I worked for a farmer. When the farmer decided to go "home" for dinner he said he was going to the house. This was surprising to me until I began to think about it. His whole farm was his home and the house was just one part of that home. Some people think of returning to their country as returning home. We live, die, and kill in the name of our symbol that one of which we call our home.
  10. Aug 20, 2008 #9


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    First of all, the guy that was chained down in the jail etc... will never find freedom if he doesn't look inside himself for that condition. Think of Nelson Mandella in prison for 25 years. the guy simply took what came and made it an opportunity... an opportunity to lead his own country. He was free to do that... yet he was in prison. The guy you describe is the perpetual victim. Forever feeling there is something better out there.

    As for home. I believe the catch phrase is "for god and country". So, by association, home (country)is a faith based and learned pre-conception, like the god part of the phrase.
  11. Aug 20, 2008 #10
    The point is that they are all symbols to which we have given meaning and to which we will die or kill for.
  12. Aug 20, 2008 #11


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    My entire make up is a result of growing up in this environment. My bones and my blood are built by the minerals and the liquids of this region. If anyone threatens to **** with it, they are ******* with me. And that gets them a fight.

    Also, your mother is a symbol... your daughter is a symbol... why defend them? Because they represent you're love, your ideals and your own blood and bones... and if they are messed with... you will defend them to the death. What is wrong with that?
  13. Aug 20, 2008 #12


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    A behaviour demonstrated by animals -- e.g. some animals get homesick when they move.

    Another behavior demonstrated by animals -- they live in their 'territories' or 'shelters', fight to protect it from intruders, fight to expand it....

    A flag is a symbol (for our country). An X on a treasure map is a symbol (for buried treasure). How is a home is not a symbol?
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