What is freedom? Are you really free? America's Independence Day, at least in my mind, brings to the fore these questions. In this spirit I thought it appropriate to share some of the deepest, thought-provoking quotes on freedom and liberty I could find on my shelf of books (not your every-day quotes found by Google search).
For those of you American readers, try quoting one of these around the bar-b-que after having consumed two or three beers and let me know what transpires...
How unreasonable people are! They never use the freedoms they have but demand those they do not have; they have freedom of thought—they demand freedom of speech. ~ Soren Kierkegaard
It is the whole soul, in fact, that gives rise to the free decision, and the act will be so much the freer the more the dynamic series with which it is connected tends to be the fundamental self.... But the moments at which we thus grasp ourselves are rare, and that is why we are rarely free. ~ Henri Bergson
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~ Viktor Frankl
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ~ Viktor Frankl
The word freedom has no meaning; there are and there can be no free beings.... One can no more conceive of a being behaving without a motive than of one arm of a scales moving up or down without the action of a weight. ~ Denis Diderot
We are a great deal more certain that our will is free than that everything that happens is bound to have a cause. This being the case, could we not for once in a way reverse the argument, and say: our ideas of cause and effect must be very inaccurate, for were they right, our will could not be free? ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
We imagine we are free in our actions, just as in dreaming we deem a place perfectly familiar which we then see doubtless for the first time. ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
If choosing freely for oneself is the highest value, the free choice to wear red socks is as valuable as the free choice to murder one's father or sacrifice oneself for one's friend. Such a belief is ridiculous. ~ Mary Warnock
....man is condemned to be free. ~ Jean Paul Sartre
What is then liberty? To be born is at once to be born in the world and to the world. The world is already constituted, but never completely. Under the first rapport, we are solicited, under the second, we are open to an infinity of possibilities. But this analysis is still abstract, because we exist under these two relations at once. There is therefore never determinism and never absolute choice; I am never a thing and never naked consciousness. ~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty
There is, then, ultimately nothing that can set limits to freedom, except those limits that freedom itself has set in the form of its various initiatives, so that the subject has simply the external world that he gives himself. ~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Which of these ideas of freedom aligns with yours (or not)? Are you free? How do you know? Can an imprisoned person be "free?" Why or why not?