Sunday, September 20, 2015

What is Freedom?

Class Notes - Sep 20 2015

In the last class - we discussed the roadmap of the course and a multi-disciplinary outline of the various aspects - Philosophy, Science, History, Art etc.. of the Self.

In this class, we shall review one of the terms - Freedom, which would fall under the Philosophical side first - as we try to understand the theory in class. Once we understand the theory/concept behind this term(download in this class), each one of us will have to (install => Homework) in order to experience it.
Download and Install are part of the framework used in last class.

We started with a discussion of 
- what we thought Freedom meant
- how none of us are as free as we want to be
- how rules constrain our freedom

There were 17 students in the class and I did a quick survey based on three questions answered by them.
Q1) Write down any word you want to
Q2) Write down words that start with the letter "S"
Q3) Write down the maximum number of words starting with the letter "T" in under a minute.

Both Questions 1 and 2 were also answered in 1 minute (where I asked them to stop at the end of 1 minute). Prior to Question 3, the students were not aware that they took one minute to answer those two questions.
In other words, all three questions were answered in exactly one minute.

After the 3rd question was completed, I asked them to count the number of words written under each question. Each student then, reported three numbers.

After collecting the individual responses from each one of them, here is the average number of words in each case - to generalize across the entire sample of 17 students.
Q1) 5.12 words on average
Q2) 7.9 words on average
Q3) 16.1 words on average

Though they had the exact same time for each question (Q1 and Q2 unknowingly and Q3 knowingly)
- Most, if not all, of them were able to write more words in Q2 compared to Q1.
- All of them wrote more words in Q3 compared to Q2 and Q1

We talked about why that was the case. A couple of insights that they uncovered during the discussion.

- The ability to express was limited when they perceived no limitation(rules) in Q1
- Adding a constraint(rule to follow) in Q2 (starting with a particular letter) helped them to express more freely
- A time pressure added to better performance in Q3

Though, the time given for their "freedom of expression" was the same across all three questions, there are key differences amongst these questions
- Q2 had a "constraint" or a rule to follow - a starting letter
- Q3 had a "constraint" and a "goal" - finding the maximum words in a minute
- Q1 had neither a constraint nor a goal - in other words a perception of unlimited freedom.

The freedom to express was more when a constraint was followed (Q2), and the most when a goal was pursued (Q3). Though we perceive that our freedom is more without any goals and constraints, the actual freedom we experience is the most when we practice intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals.

Back to Real World
1) A constraint allows us to establish that we will NOT go below whatever the lower limit we have identified for ourselves. That is the floor on which we will stand and continue to improve from there with time. In no time, shall we go below the constraint that we establish for ourselves.

A goal allows us to pursue our personal best higher and higher till we get to the ultimate goal.

2) A constraint is something that we have to STOP ourselves from doing. These are things that we are currently doing or that we have easy access to. When we tell ourselves that we will never hit below the floor we establish for ourselves, we program it in our brains. When our parents or elders ask us (provide feedback) to stop doing something, we will have to analyze for ourselves and establish those as the floors below which we won't go.

A goal is something that we have to START doing, that we are not currently capable of - in which case we have to start building the capability to reach our goal.

With time...
The following visual is just an example of how we can progress with time. In class, we discussed the lowest scale (the minus infinity) is Murder. Similarly, the highest scale (positive infinity goal) is the maximum happiness for not only ourselves, but for everyone around us.

On the constraints we will have to impose on ourselves - it may be "sleeping/eating more" for some of us, while it may be "sleeping/eating less" for others. In other words, the rules we want to follow will be different for each one of us depending on where we currently are.

As we see in the visual below, 
though it may "appear" (=> we just perceive) that we have unlimited freedom when there are no rules and goals
we will actually continue to experience increasing freedom as we start practicing intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals

Define your personal goals and self-imposed constraints that you want to follow to experience maximum freedom.


  1. Interesting. Great effort to tell the rest of us your learnings from the class.

    Regarding unconstrained vs constrained freedom is it an apriori argument by religion/morality/society to control the individual?

  2. Ultimately, the difference between apriori vs. aposteriori (I like Kant too btw) is based on experience.

    And, in order to experience it - we have to start somewhere and try it for ourselves. Otherwise, we come to an apriori conclusion based on other's experiences and not on self-experience.

    And, hence the empirical evidence from the class experiment to experience the freedom of expression for ourselves before taking the definition for granted.