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The Concept of Freedom
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Ayer defines the concept of freedom from two distinctive angles. He looks at freedom from a deterministic point of view by postulating that an individual is viewed as acting freely when his/her actions can be predetermined. Accordingly, he rules out actions that occur by sheer chance. Therefore, he argues that there must be a causal agent that triggers an individual’s action and that such an agent should not constrain them from making a choice. Ayer also looks at freedom from a moralistic stance by asserting that the liberty to make a rational decision that is not constrained depends on one’s character. Therefore, he argues that for someone to act freely, one must be true to himself as “choice depends upon my character” (403).
Ayer further argues that determination cannot be used to illustrate an individual’s free will and that one can only talk of freedom when he is morally responsible for his actions. He concludes by stating that to fully actualize freedom, an individual should be in a position to act otherwise; there should be an array of choices to choose from. In addition, an individual’s actions should be voluntarily and that they should not be compelled by other factors such as the will of other people.
This definition departs from our ordinary usage of the word freedom which in most cases refers to the ability of an individual to make choices based on “consciousness of necessity” (404). Ayer’s definition of freedom is not more concerned about making choices but rather with making choices that we can be morally responsible for. Further, Ayer’s definition of the term varies from our ordinary usage when he asserts that freedom entails voluntary choices that can be predetermined based on the causal factor that we seek to fulfill. He further argues that rarely do we experience freedom as the ordinary definition of freedom that puts emphasis on making choices rather than the driving force.