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The Faces Of Freedom

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The Faces Of Freedom

How does one define freedom? The OED gives about a dozen useful definitions that each pertain to one of a variety of the aspects of the human state. One referred specifically to the political freedoms of an individual: “Exemption from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic control; independence; civil liberty” (def. 2). Another definition concerned the spiritual freedom found in Christianity: “fig. Liberation from the bondage of sin” (def. 1.b). There was another that defined freedom as “Physics. Capability of motion. degree of freedom: an independent mode in which a body may be displaced” (def. 10.a). The word liberty was used in one of the preceding examples and it is virtually interchangeable with freedom. In fact, the OED definition of liberty contains a number of the same definitions that freedom does. Obviously,since humanity is capable to being free in so many different ways it is difficult to come up with one definition of freedom. Milton addresses the freedom of the mind; God gives man the freedom of choice; Donne mentions spiritual freedom found from faith in God; Mary Wroth discusses the lack of freedom in love. Each of these writers used their ideas of freedom to make a point about how people are affected by freedom.

In Milton’s Areopagitica he writes against the censorship of literature arguing that people should have the freedom to choose what they want to read. Milton says, “If every action which is good or evil in man at ripe years, were to be under pittance and prescription and compulsions, what were virtue but a name, what praise could be then due to well doing, what gramercy to be sober, just, or continent?” (Areopagitica). Milton’s argument is that man must be free to choose what he a...

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... lost heart confess/ I love, and must. So farewell liberty” (lines 13-14).

But to me, the most important freedom is the freedom to change. The ability to change for good is vital. A tyrant is a man who does not allow his subjects to change anything about the way the country is run. This is why tyranny, as we have seen in history, doesn’t work. When an artist begins with a blank canvas or a square block of marble his goal is to change it to look different. If you take away that right men will shout for a change in laws. If men create a government that restrains change how will those men be able to do anything but work and breathe? That is what freedom means to me. If I am allowed to change I will be happy. In his Second Treatise of Civil Government John Locke said, “The end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”
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