Freedom, Entitlements, Life, and the Like
by Jacob McCartney on 2017-03-01
The issue of defining what it means to be a free human does not yield clear results. But once it is defined, it and its implications can be used to determine aspects of entitlements, life, and everything that goes with them. To have true freedom is to be able to act according to one’s choices while being clear of coercion.
Freedom derives from Old English “frēodōm,” which would be defined as “power of self-determination, state of free will; emancipation from slavery, deliverance.” In the late fourteenth century, the word “freedom” referred to an “exemption from arbitrary or despotic control, civil liberty,” and in the 1570’s, it could be defined simply as the “possession of particular privileges.” In the context of Rudolf Steiner’s Die Philosophie der Freiheit, “Freiheit” translates most literally to “liberty,” though it would be “freehood” if such a word existed in the English language, given the meanings of the German suffix -heit, which in most cases translates to the English suffix -hood. The Middle Low German word is “vridom,” which uses the -dom suffix as modern English does (Barnhart; Gamillscheg).
There are three major definitions of freedom that will be discussed. The first definition is the one presented by Thomas Hobbes. According to Hobbes, there is a spectrum. On one side is the natural, pre-government state of the world, in which there is no structure or order. This is absolute freedom. On the other end of the spectrum is a total authoritarian state. This is absolute security.
Hobbes says the ideal system is somewhere in the middle, but true freedom would exist without any structure.
The second definition of freedom was written of by Rudolf Steiner, an eighteenth century German philosopher, in The Philosophy of Freedom. Part One of his book takes a look at freedom in human thinking and tries to understand the relationship between knowledge and perception. In Part Two, the book analyzes what is needed to have freedom of action. The exact translation of the book title, Die Philosophie der Freiheit, translates to The Philosophy of Freedom, though it has also been translated as The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path. As spoken of earlier, “Freiheit” translates most literally to, in the case of the book, “liberty,” which is defined as: “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views; the power to scope or act as one pleases.”
According to Steiner, freedom must be gained through hard work. The Philosophy of Freedom is not as much about defining freedom as it is about defining ethics; however, he does say in his book that true freedom comes when inner and hidden blocks in perception are overcome. His term, ethischer Individualismus, covers his concept (Steiner).
The third and final definition is the one used by Ayn Rand in her Objectivist philosophy, in which Rand states, “Freedom … has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion.” A man is free to act as long as he is left unrestrained and unthreatened by others. It is only in the presence of physical coercion (insecurity) that one is no longer free (Rand, 1966).
In order to truly define what it means to be free and end up with a final, correct definition, the issues of human nature and morality need to be discussed in detail due to their relationship with the necessity of freedom.
It is a difficult task to try and define human nature. There are those who, like Joseph Butler, believe human nature is naturally good (“good” being defined later). Opponents of such a concept, such as Hsün Tzu and Macaulay, argue the other side of the argument, being that human nature is naturally self-centered and egoist. Case in point, to Thomas Hobbes’ question, “What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true?”, Macaulay replies, “We know of only one . . . that men always act from self-interest” (Hudik, 2).
But the truth of the case is: human nature is not to be naturally good, ethical, and selfless, but it is instead to act from self-interest, from lust, from greed, and, most of all, out of survival.
First what needs to be defined are the definitions of “good” and “evil” and, more importantly, the physics and metaphysics of morality. Good and evil – or metaphysical ethics in general – are experienced purely in the mind, so they are therefore subjective concepts, “subjective” being defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions; dependent on the mind or on an individual’s perception for its existence, “objective” being defined as the opposite. Because one cannot prove that something is necessarily good or evil, those concepts are subjective, and therefore ethics are too (Oxford UP).
While good and evil do not exist outside of the mind and are therefore subjective, there is still an objective basis for morality. Morality is an outgrowth of life’s Unalienable Rights, which is an outgrowth of the physical Constructal Law, which is an outgrowth of the Laws of Thermodynamics (Bejan et al., 2010; Farabee, 2001). Morality is part of the physical Laws of Nature, not the metaphysical.
But it must first be made clear that the human brain functions by a nature that is both unique to humans and consistent among all living creatures. Everything that is alive has a motivation to survive. If a living being does not work to survive, it dies; thus, it does not follow the nature of living things.
There is a traceable path from Thermodynamics – moments after the Big Bang – to Morality. The Laws of Thermodynamics deal with the direction of energy flow. Constructal Law deals with patterns generated by those dynamics within a space that can freely morph relative to resistance, which presents its configuration during the evolution of biology, physics, technology, and social organization. At the biological level, once alive, “Life” must have the freedom (“Liberty” in the optimization relative to resistance) in “the pursuit (energy flow) of” survival; otherwise, there is no life. Since there is life, survival is a form of positive feedback and a prerequisite for human “Happiness.” Hence Thomas Jefferson’s discovery, which he declared “self-evident” and used the label “Unalienable Rights,” representing a polished version of this bio-program pertaining to the flow dynamics of life, which is expressed in his following celebrated statement, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Objective is defined as of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers: having reality independent of the mind (Oxford UP).
Only the physical Laws of Nature represent a “phenomenon or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers.”
Therefore, the scope of this position is in the physical domain, not metaphysical. The set of rules in this position is the “objective” physical Laws of Nature, not some subjective metaphysical set of human rules, commonly referred to a code of ethics, moral codes, et-cetera.
The physical Laws of Nature are the omnipotent set of rules for the machinery of nature. Hence the evolution of life, humans, physics, technology, and social organization – all a part of nature – via the physical Constructal Law. An example of this is Zipf’s Law (Zipf’s Law being further discussed later) (Fagan & Gençay, 2010; Giles et al., 139).
Within the context of this argument, the terms “physical Laws of Nature” or “Laws of Nature” are used interchangeably to refer to laws based on observations that a particular phenomenon always occurs under certain conditions. Such repeatable phenomenon brings into existence a set of universally accepted terms and definitions describing a physical law within the scientific community. These physical laws include the Laws of Gravity, Newton’s Laws of Motion, the Laws of Aerodynamics, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the Constructal Law, to name a few. Some of these Laws are associated with physical constants, like the speed of light (c), the permeability of a vacuum (μ0), and the charge/quantum ratio.
The names of some of these laws are in honor of the scientists who discovered them, but those scientists did not create the laws, and there are many more laws yet to be discovered. These Laws of Nature existed throughout the universe long before the existence of humans. Therefore, these laws are not metaphysical–that is, based on one’s belief or philosophy. Hence, these laws are “objective,” based on the predefined and accepted definition of “objective.”
Relative to the “objective basis for morality,” whatever one decides to do in the physical domain must morally comply (“right conduct”) with those “objective” set of rules defined by the physical Laws of Nature; otherwise, failure will be the norm. Anything done in the physical universe, of which everyone is a part of, must morally follow those “objective” Laws of Nature to fulfill one’s pursuits; for everyone is trapped within the matrix of those Laws, there are no exceptions.
Having defined morality and ethics, the concept of Natural Law must be related to ethics. Natural law theorists who believe that ethics correlate with the Natural Law have three arguments: Hobbesian, Aristotelian, and Platonic. Aristotle and Plato both reject the idea of good being subjective. But unlike them, Hobbes looks at the subjectivist theory of good versus evil (Murphy).
In the subjectivist theories of the good, something is good if it is desired or liked, or would be the object of one’s pro-attitudes in some suitable conditions (Schuler, 277-281). Given the variation of human desire, it is common to think that this subjectivist theory rejects the natural law theory, but this is not so. One might maintain that human beings’ nature – their similarity in physiological constitution – makes them to have some desires in common, and these desires may be so central to human desires that we can build precepts of rationality based on them.
While that is what Hobbes claims and maintains, Aristotle offers a different view. For him, subjectivist theories of the good are rejected; something is “good” not if “it stands in some relation to desire but rather that it is somehow perfective or completing of a being, where what is perfective or completing of a being depends on that being’s nature” (Murphy).
But Plato offers a different view from both Hobbes and Aristotle. The Platonic view both rejects the subjectivist theory of the good and maintains that human nature should not define what is good but instead merely define the possibilities of human achievement. In simpler terms, humans have created different definitions of good and evil all around the world and in many different cultures, and these false definitions are not what is important; what is important is for humans to grow and achieve.
“What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one: and that is not only true but identical; that men always act from self- interest. […] when explained, it means only that men, if they can, will do as they choose. […] If the doctrine that men always act from self-interest, be laid down in any other sense than this – if the meaning of the word self-interest be narrowed so as to exclude any one of the motives which may by possibility act on any human being, – the proposition ceases to be identical; but at the same time it ceases to be true.”
- Lord Macaulay (1909:432-433)
Humans are reasonable creatures, and the Laws of Nature are discernible by reason. Thus, all humans are “morally” obligated to use their reasoning to discern what the laws are and then act accordingly. For example, humans have a natural drive to eat, drink, sleep, and reproduce. These actions work in accordance with the natural law for a species to survive and procreate. Therefore, activities that act in conformity with such laws are morally good, and activities that work against those laws are morally wrong.
This holds true for all humans. Human nature, like the nature of all living species, revolves around survival and the few basic activities that relate to it. Since the brain automatically acts accordingly with the physical Laws of Nature, there is a basic, uniform system that can be called human nature – “uniform” in the sense that it applies uniformly to all people.
One natural physical law that applies to humans and everything humans create is Zipf’s Law, a law that, graphically, “predicts that a scatter plot of log(f) against log(r) will form a straight line with a slope of -1.” In a language developed naturally over time (which includes all but a few languages), there are a few high-frequency words, a small collection of medium frequency words, and a very high amount of rarely-used words. The Brown Corpus, which consists of over a million words, contains repeated uses of only 135 words (Giles & Ullah, 139, 5.1). The Law has been shown to predict the population of cities, the firing of neurons, and other concepts that exist either in the brain or are made by people over a period of time.
The simple fact of the matter is that all humans follow human nature, which follows the physical Laws of Nature, which define morality in the physical sense.
Before moving on, there is another term to be defined: The Non-Aggression Principle. The Non-Aggression Principle is the principle asserting that aggression, defined as any intrusion on another person’s life, liberty, or property, is invariably illegitimate.
There are different kinds of freedom. The first is social freedom. Social freedom is when, with respect to Person B, Person A is free to do x if Person B makes it neither impossible nor punishable to do x. Hence, social unfreedom is when the actions or statements of Person B make it impossible or punishable for Person A to do x.
The next two types of freedom are the economic and business freedoms. Economic freedom is the ability of an individual or group within society to endeavor the economic actions they desire to endeavor. This includes the concepts of free market, free trade, and private property. Economic liberty is the freedom to produce, trade, and consume any acquired goods and providable services, under the use of the Non-Aggression Principle.
Business freedom, on the other hand, is the coherence of any existing government regulation in the starting and operating of a business. The less regulations there are, the more free those who own and run the business are to proceed with operations. The freedoms of workers does not fall under business freedom; instead, they fall under the category of social freedom.
The whole of each of these kinds of freedom has a common denominator: They only work if there is a lack of coercion or aggression in the equation. If one is to be free rather than unfree – with regard to any of the above categories of freedom – the individual must be free from aggression. There is a debate about freedom’s relationship with morality. Where does morality get in the way of freedom, and when does freedom go too far? Overall, what is an acceptable level of freedom while still calling it “true freedom?”
Since the system of metaphysical morals defined earlier as the Non-Aggression Principle is a widely-accepted system (although most do not know that is what it is called), and since every kind of freedom defined above is predominantly encompassed by this concept, the Rand definition of freedom will be employed here. If freedom is defined solely as the absence of physical coercion (i.e. aggression), then this debate becomes about rights; and more specifically, “Unalienable rights.”
As, from a moral standpoint, “Unalienable rights” are the biological and evolutionary drive to survive, the right of “Life” is the most important. Rand repeatedly makes this clear in her Objectivist writing. It is not only her philosophy, but it is also an offspring of the physical laws of nature and their relationship with the constructal law. The reason the above three definitions of freedom are so different is because they do not involve the natural laws. Indeed, the Rand definition is corollary to those physical laws, but they were not in mind during the development of Objectivist thought.
Because one must be clear of acts of aggression against them in order to be free, this also means they cannot “morally” perform these acts of aggression against others, since that would remove the “absence of physical coercion” from the individual being acted on.
Different philosophers throughout history have tried to determine what freedom means, some successfully and other not. Now that the concept can be backed up through the use of science and the study of the physical laws of nature, it can be more accurately defined. Taking apart all the different kinds of freedom will render a common similarity, being that it only works when accompanied by an absence of any kind of hindrance through the use of physical force. Freedom, in its broadest sense, is defined as being able to act unencumbered by acts of coercion.
And now, with the concepts of morality and freedom defined, it is time to relate these concepts and definitions to entitlements, what is encompassed by freedom, and life in general.
From the standpoint of nature and therefore science, humans are entitled only to freedom. And because freedom is the absence of coercion, humans are entitled to protection from coercion. But that is all they are entitled to because, also according to the basic physical laws, the concept of survival of the fittest is alive and well.
Survival of the fittest is a concept first coined by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. The term social darwinism first appeared in Europe in 1877, and it continues to be be used today. It always has applied to the world, and it continues to do so. There are certain people who are simply more fit to survive than others.
There is a concept that if all wealth were evenly distributed among every person in the world, it would eventually start to accumulate back to the same people who had it all before. Just like Zipf’s Law applies to all people, so does this concept. A lion with three legs does not survive in the wild. A bee without a stinger cannot defend itself, so it does not survive. Humans are the same way. A person who cannot adapt does not survive. People who cannot do what is necessary to survive in the environment they live in do not survive. While complex society appears very different from the environment of a lion or a bee, it is still, when broken down, exactly the same.
But even still, humans are a social animal, and it is common for people to help others. It is not meant to be a default, though, as a person who has life handed to him or her has not learned how to survive on their own. Individualism is a naturally human trait, while collectivism is created.
Breaking for a moment, individualism and collectivism will be briefly discussed, for the fundamental debate all over the world for over a century has been over those two ideologies. Individualism is the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him and that they have the inalienable right to live it as they see fit, act according to their own desires and judgement, keep and use the product of their efforts, and to pursue the values of their own choosing. It is the idea that the individual is sovereign and the fundamental unit of moral concern – more specifically, his or her own moral concern. Individualism is the ideal that the American Founding Fathers set forth and sought to establish when they created a country in which the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness were to be recognized and protected.
Collectivism, on the other hand, is the idea that the individual’s life belongs not to him but to the society which he is merely a part of. In a collectivist system, the individual has no rights, and they must sacrifice their values and goals for the group’s “greater good.” As opposed to individualism, where the individual is the fundamental unit of moral concern, the group or society is the basic unit of moral concern under a collectivist system, and the individual is of value only insofar as he serves the group. There are two types of collectivism. The first type is the smallest type, in which small groups come together to work together. This is both natural and created. The second type is the larger one, in which whole, large groups come together to try to create a collective safety net, as in government social programs. This is entirely created and goes fully against the flow and course of nature.
A common theme among everything defined and discussed in this paper is what is natural – more specifically, nature. The laws of nature are all-encompassing. Only quantum mechanics break these laws, but that is a different topic. All life on Earth formed the same way – through natural selection and over a billion years of evolution. Lions and humans may be very different species, but they both came from the same place and are products of evolution. Human nature can be and has been proven, so the scope of this entire position is backed up by science. Many years of science back up these claims.
All functions of life in the world are encompassed under the natural, physical laws of nature. These laws can be used to define freedom, which can then be used to evaluate entitlements and life: people are entitled only to freedom, and life is a predominantly individualistic endeavor. Discourse on public policy and other matters should be based on these scientifically-proven, repeatable concepts, because that is how it is supposed to it. It is moral.
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