Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A seminal paradox

Something I wrote yesterday has continued to nibble at my thoughts like a bird pecking seeds:
For does it make sense to say, "You are free, but don't act freely"?
Actually, what has been nibbling is the subtle paradox hiding in the positive variant, God's presumed command: "You are free, go and act freely."

The paradox is that if I go and act freely, I'm doing as I'm told and am therefore not acting freely." Or, if I act freely by choosing not to act freely, then am I acting freely or not acting freely (or perhaps both)? (It's like Russell's paradox: if a barber shaves men if and only if they do not shave themselves, then should the barber shave himself or not?)

Freedom may be the seminal logical contradiction by which it is possible to believe all things (and maybe even by which "All things are possible with God" [Mark 10:27]). (Russell pointed out that if you admit a contradiction into your logical system, then you can prove anything whatsoever.)


  1. I think you maybe connfusing 'Freedom' with 'will'. I may have the freedon to climb a mountain, but do I have the will or the means? It would be foolish to think a poor man had as much freedon as a rich man. Also, in the Bible, I have had a hard time with the terms they use: Freedon, fellow man, ect. The acts that were conmitted during that time suggest the words weren't applied in the same manner as we view them today. I live by a simple rule: My freedon ends where your's start, and your's ends where mind start. Man an never be trusted with total freedon. ed

  2. Thank you, Ed, for that "may be," for I don't think that I am confusing the two, but have simply not gotten into any considerations of will (or even "free will"!)...yet.

    I certainly agree with you about how one practices one's freedom. I would even argue (probably) that if everyone followed the "do no harm" principle (part of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians, I think) mankind would be excellently well served.

    I also acknowledge that one's ability to exercise one's freedom involves more than "will power"; involves material means, to which you allude. My social philosophy (not that I have articulated it) is that a just (and thereby healthier) society tends toward equality of means (rather than tending away from it, as seems to be the case today in America—even at an accelerating rate).

  3. Prehaps there is a better wind blowing. Not the prefect wind, but a better one. The country has swung so far to the right,far so long. Maybe, we'll see it correct itself. Forgive me when I take the words of Karl Marx and say the church has become the curse of mankind.

  4. Do you really feel, then, Ed, that you need to be forgiven for saying that?