I think that the most succinct definition of freedom could be the right to say no to another. This was brought home to me in a recent family situation. Never mind the specifics of the situation, the general point is that if a person doesn’t have the freedom to say no, that person is not free. A person must have the freedom to say no if the concept of being free has to have any content.

Suppose I were to demand that you allow me into your home. If and only if you have the right to deny me entrance into your home does the concept of you owning your home have any content. If you can say, “No, you cannot come into my home”, only then does the concept of you owning your home become meaningful. You must have the right to say no, regardless of the reason why you deny me access to your home. If I could somehow enter your home whether you agree or not, then you clearly don’t have ownership of your home.

Freedom in essence is the freedom to say, “No.” I may not like it that you say no to me but I would defend your right to say no. Apart for any utilitarian reasons for my position — that I want that same right myself to say no without having to justify myself — I would insist that a society that respects the freedom of the individual to say no is a morally good society.

Author: Atanu Dey


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