Let me be very clear when I say I do not mean free will, that is a different discussion. When I talk about freedom I refer to complete liberation. So many ideologies pride themselves with liberating man from government, social expectations,
religious and moral standards, ect. But whether complete liberation is possible is still up for debate.
A man can be free of government in the case that there is no government, but he will not be free from man altogether. The abolition of government still leaves social rules to dictate the actions of man. Let’s say a man lives in an anarcho-syndicalist society and they have just freed themselves of the shackles of government. Any rules that the society puts forth, as just as they may be, limit the man. For instance that man would not be free to take things from another’s possession without permission. There will always be rules of some sort, even if that society is rid of religion there will be laws of the land to keep peace and prosperity.
In some cases there have been men that have striven to lift these societal expectations. Think of it as the weight of the heavens crushing down on Atlas’s back as his punishment. The more rules imposed through religion, society, and government adds weight to his struggle until it is too much to bear.
Picture a man living in complete isolation. Think of Thoreau’s Walden to the extreme. This man is far enough from his fellow man that their will could not be imposed on him. He has no government, no religion, and no society. As much as this man may think, he is not free. Man’s consciousness is the last bonds he has. It is his moral obligations that holds man from complete liberation: that which keeps him from whatever he desires. He might not hunt certain creatures because they are too young or too rare, or in the case of society he may not kill his fellow man to acquire something he desires. Even dogs mourn the death of others. It is on moral grounds most men will not kill others.
Man cannot escape himself. Consciousness determines that he will forever be shackled, it is a part of being human. Consciousness will ultimately drive man. If a man does something he knows is wrong and goes against his conscious that still doesn’t mean he is free. Because afterwards he will have his conscious always there to remind him of his wrongdoings. A man may as well do whatever he pleases in life but regrets and conscious will pressure him just as the heavens of Atlas.
So does this make all attempts at liberation in vain? A man seeks liberation to find happiness. In this case let’s say something forbidden by government is something that brings this man to happiness and it is accepted by society, then it is
just for the man to seek freedom from that rule. If a man, with all his heart, wants to marry someone in a way that is not permitted then it is not in vain for the man to fight for the right if it were to bring him happiness.
In this case of Atlas holding all the heavens above his head, the more burdens he can remove, no matter how small, will ultimately ease the load. He may not be able to completely take all pressure off him, but if he can work to free himself as much weight as possible then it is never in vain. Complete liberation is not possible, but we can strive to get as close as possible to it.