Opportunities And Necessity Of Forming The Concept Of Freedom


The purpose of the article is to analyze the content of the concept "freedom" and substantiate the need for its formation. The introduction of this broader mental form into circulation is dictated by the needs of integrating specific content when considering freedom in various areas of humanitarian knowledge. The conceptual and semantic context and the results of the study of the concept of freedom in a number of literary, philosophical, sociological, political and socio-psychological sources are presented. In the literature of F.M. Dostoevsky viewed freedom through the prism of faith, ideal, happiness and even sin. Political science is interested in possible mechanisms for achieving such an attitude and the concept of "regulated freedom" is being developed, which is analyzed in the context of the concepts of "power", "ideology", "non-violence", "pattern of behavior". In social psychology, freedom appears as a subjective feeling of independence and responsibility and is considered in the context of psychological feelings of anxiety and insecurity, irrational tendencies to obey and escape from freedom. Thus, the difference in the conceptual contexts of various areas of humanitarian knowledge in determining the content of freedom leads to the need to form a more complex semantic structure - the concept of freedom, with the help of which it is possible to take into account the semantic diversity of this phenomenon.

Keywords: Freedom, concept of freedom, social and humanitarian knowledge, transcendence, self-determination, responsibility


Social and humanitarian knowledge has been researching the topic of freedom for several centuries. Such general issues as: the origins of freedom, conditioning by external or internal factors, recognition of freedom as an essential or desirable state of a person - in different branches of humanitarian knowledge were analyzed with the help of a conceptual resource specific to the industry. Accordingly, the content of freedom was also specified. A counterbalancing tendency to such a course of events can be considered the desire to form an integrative socio-humanitarian category, and, possibly, a general disciplinary concept of freedom, which makes it possible to convey the multidimensionality of human existence.

Problem Statement

Various branches of humanitarian knowledge have their own specifics, as well as conceptual tools for understanding any problems. This led to a substantial disciplinary diversity in understanding the essence of freedom. The article presents the conceptual field of various disciplines, within which the corresponding content of the concept of "freedom" is clarified. It is concluded that it is necessary to introduce a broader cognitive structure - the concept of freedom.

Research Questions

In the Russian literature of the 19th century, the religious interpretation of the freedom as Genuine freedom, according to Dostoevsky, is possible only as a property of a deeply religious person, more precisely, as his desire to self-determine in God and accept suffering as an integral part of freedom. This is the lot of the few; for the majority, freedom turns out to be the path to sin.

In philosophical knowledge, there is an obvious tendency to interpret freedom as a transcendence, which was realized in the ontological-transcendental and procedural-transcendental approaches. The first approach (S. Kierkegaard, N. Berdyaev) defined freedom as a kind of ontological reality, transcendental to other types of being. The second approach (I. Kant, K. Jaspers, J.-P. Sartre, A. Camus) presented freedom as a process of transcending into a special state of human essence (Lavrukhina, 2009).

The socio-political interpretation of freedom took shape in the Renaissance in the format of individual freedom, understood as the inalienable right of the individual to express his / her spiritual essence. Modern theoretical sociology considers freedom to be a self-causal essence, which makes it extremely difficult to study it. At the empirical level, sociological models distinguish such levels of freedom as “freedom of action” and “freedom of choice”.

Political science develops the concept of "regulated freedom", which is analyzed in the context of the relationship "freedom - civil society - rule of law", "freedom - political regime - ideology."

Social psychology characterizes freedom as a subjective feeling of independence and responsibility. Negative consequences of freedom in the form of a feeling of anxiety and insecurity, psychological discomfort when it is necessary to make decisions on their own, as well as an instinctive desire for submission for a person - all this contributes to the formation of an irrational aspiration of the individual to "escape from freedom."

Purpose of the Study

The article discusses the possibility of forming the concept of freedom, which will take into account the specifics and combine semantic interpretations of freedom in various social and humanitarian disciplines.

Research Methods

The methodological basis of the research is formed by the concepts of “freedom”, “freedom of choice”, “transcendence”, “essence and existence of man”, “responsibility”, “sin”, “mental attitudes”, “power”, as well as methods of historical, logical and essential building models of freedom in the historical-philosophical, socio-political and socio-psychological aspects.


In the classical Russian literature of the 19th century, the concept of freedom was actualized due to the obviousness of changes in the structure of society, in the system of relations between people, between people and God, in understanding the purpose of a person in society. The most indicative for that time is the interpretation of freedom by F.M. Dostoevsky.

Freedom is understood by F.M. Dostoevsky as ambiguous. On the one hand, it is associated with the search for the ideal, restlessness, the desire to come closer to harmony with the world, to overcome external obstacles. On the other hand, as noted by Y.V. Sitnikov, for F.M. Dostoevsky's freedom is “an opportunity, but not for everyone, not everyone is ready for it; unlike liberals, he is a pessimist in relation to a person” (Sitnikova, 2009, p. 501). On the perception of human freedom in society F.M. Dostoevsky was influenced by the fact that she was associated with the West for him, and the writer considered the influence of the West on Russia to be harmful. Therefore, F.M. Dostoevsky believes that freedom can only harm many people, since it will lead to an indispensable desire to break the rules, establish their own norms of behavior, etc. According to F.M. Dostoevsky, freedom is not the path to happiness: only a few need it, but the bulk of people will be burdened. But the interpretation of F.M. Dostoevsky's freedom in a religious vein is undoubtedly a contribution of the writer to religious and philosophical anthropology and touches upon such problems as the relationship between man and God, the value of man, recognition of the contradictory nature of his essence.

The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor in the novel The Brothers Karamazov presents two versions of the understanding of freedom on behalf of the two heroes. For Jesus, freedom is an opportunity to be yourself, to strive for the best, he proclaims to people: "I want to make you free." For the inquisitor, freedom is just an illusion. “But know that now and precisely now these people are more confident than ever that they are completely free, but meanwhile they themselves brought us their freedom and humbly laid it at our feet” (Dostoevsky, 2019, p. 261). The Inquisitor seeks to prove that freedom and happiness are absolutely incompatible, so he and his associates "fought freedom and did so in order to make people happy ... Nothing has ever been more unbearable for a person and for human society!" (Ibid, p. 262).

According to E.B. Erina, F.M. Dostoevsky “sees the main contradiction of freedom in the fact that it leads to slavery: a person becomes a slave of his choice, his hostage, if the choice is not based on faith” (Erina, 2012, p. 49). A person without faith accepts freedom as a whole, as a natural state, as permission to do as he pleases. But for a person with faith in his soul, freedom can be harmful. Imbued with the idea of ​​freedom, a believer begins to deny faith and walk the path to sin. Self-destruction in this case is even more significant than for the unbeliever. Freedom is possible for F.M. Dostoevsky only as a property of a deeply religious person who, striving for freedom, must self-determine in goodness and in God, accept suffering as an integral part of freedom. Since few are capable of this, for the majority, freedom turns out to be a path to sin. That is why, according to F.M. Dostoevsky, man does not need freedom, it is not a guarantee and a condition for happiness. Rather, happiness will be led by adherence to strict rules and norms and obedience to the order established by wise people.

The first philosopher who proposed to interpret freedom through the concept of transcendence was Plotinus. His One, as the beginning of the world, is consistent only with its nature, this is the first activity and absolute creativity. This is pure freedom (Plotin, 1992). Transcendental existential philosophy (S. Kierkegaard, N. Berdyaev) makes freedom a human act, which is realized in the creativity of a previously non-existent one. Freedom becomes an act of choosing a cosmic scale, a person becomes proportionate to God, since he creates eternity (Kierkegaard, 1993). It is logical that such freedom has other consequences for a person - a free person becomes absolutely, metaphysically guilty for all the crimes that follow from the first act of freedom. “A person, according to Kierkegaard, ... cannot establish the boundaries of his guilt and must be responsible (of course, not before an external court, but before the court of God) for all the evil of the world” (Gaidenko, 1997, p. 244).

Freedom in the understanding of N. Berdyaev becomes the absolute primary power to create, turns into the potential for novelty as such. “Somewhere, in an incommensurably greater depth, there is Ungrund, groundlessness,” in comparison with which all processes are secondary. It is "an innately expressible abyss, absolute, irrational, not commensurate with any of our categories" (Berdyaev, 1969).

Transcendental philosophy (I. Kant, G. Fichte) connects freedom with the transcendental subject. In Kant, it manifests itself in the orientation of the transcendental subject to the moral law. However, the empirical subject is usually oriented to its own benefit, so the Kantian subject of freedom splits into the intelligible and empirical person and becomes contradictory.

Fichte overcomes this contradiction: his freedom is placed inside the subject itself, acts as its essence. According to Fichte, freedom is so important to the human being that it should not be derived from something else. It must be regarded as an element identical with the very essence of man. Nevertheless, such freedom again becomes contradictory, because the first free act of the "I" immediately creates the "Not-I", the objective world of necessity and unfreedom (Gaidenko, 1997).

In existentialism (K. Jaspers, J.-P. Sartre, A. Camus), it would seem that the previous abstractness of freedom is overcome, since freedom is associated with the individual-finite existence of man. However, in the empirical existence of man, freedom is still not found, since it is achieved and is the result of acts of transcending. The sphere of manifestation of freedom is existence. This is a special non-objectified being, which is accompanied by anxiety and makes a person lonely (Sartre, 2002). Such being is experienced as absurdity, and absurd freedom turns into a rebellion against everything, including even that over which a person has no control (Camus, 1990).

Then, when the problem of freedom turns out to be the subject of consideration in sociology, a certain paradox is revealed. If the event or objects are self-causal, then it is almost impossible to study them. But freedom is just such an event, so sociological science prefers to talk about non-freedom. And it is in this sense that the problem of freedom in sociology is solved not in terms of "yes" or "no", but in terms of "more or less", "better or worse", in terms of changes in the "degree of lack of freedom" (Shabanova, 2000).

Nevertheless, in sociology we find, first, the interpretation of freedom as one of the mental programs (reflexive and non-reflective), thanks to which behavioral models and normative personality types are constructed in society. So, in Soviet times, a personality with a dichotomous model of "freedom-non-freedom" was formed. The political attitudes of the mental program of the "Soviet man" were: to move the solution of all vital problems into the state-political sphere; follow external standards of behavior, "be like everyone else"; authoritarian behavior with an immanent contradiction - submission to the “superior” and suppression of the “inferior” (Glushko, 2016).

Second, sociology ties freedom to its levels - individual, group, and societal. The connection between the levels is two-way: "top-down" and the impact of individual freedom on societal freedom. Then we can distinguish “negative” freedom (“freedom from”), which allows individuals to maintain their independence from external circumstances, and “positive” freedom (“freedom for”), which to some extent can influence these circumstances (Shtompka, 1996).

The concept of "social freedom" turned out to be multi-layered. The individual in modern society is provided with many freedoms that determine the societal choice programmed by the social system. The meaning of this freedom, the essence of this choice is not the right to be oneself, not the right to make one's own decisions, but “the right to the same form of life as everyone else” (Goffman, 2015).

The ideological basis of modern Western societies is the concept of human rights and freedoms, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, this document is not legally binding. In fact, this is a recognition that the implementation of the rights and freedoms of citizens is at the mercy of state authorities. Accordingly, in political science, within the framework of the ideology of liberalism, the problem of freedom-non-freedom appears in the form of the question of the possibility (necessity) of regulating the freedom of the individual, which actually means the recognition of the admissibility of the state's interference in the private life of an individual to one degree or another. Then the concept of “regulated freedom” used in political science must be associated with the issue of mechanisms and means of regulation: the means of hard coercion and violence are excluded from the arsenal, methods of suggestion, persuasion, cooperation, interest and authority are allowed. In fact, this means that the boundaries and measure of freedom in society are determined by the distribution of power between various centers of influence (state, trade unions, business, etc.) in order to effectively control the political elite.

Psychological science also has its own understanding of freedom. Freedom is characterized as “a psychic phenomenon, purely human, not existing in the external world” (Kaptsevich, 2011, p. 89). In addition, freedom has its own individual characteristics for each person, which also increases the number of its psychological interpretations. Psychologists strive to understand the role of freedom in the formation of a person's personality and come to the conclusion that “without freedom as a subjective feeling of independence, responsibility, a person could hardly achieve much and become a psychologically mature person” (Ibid.). That is, freedom turns out to be the most important condition for the formation of a person's self-sufficiency and his stay in harmony with himself.

The events of the 20th century demonstrated the negative consequences of excessive freedom and forced psychologists to rethink this phenomenon. E. Fromm's book Escape from Freedom (1941) was of great importance for the psychological interpretation of freedom. In the earlier stages of the development of society, human existence was deprived of freedom, but it was safe. Thus, the medieval man felt completely protected. The acquisition of freedom, on the contrary, aroused fear in a person, there was a fear of becoming defenseless, and freedom in these conditions lost its attractiveness.

E. Fromm notes that in Germany, where a person at the beginning of the 20th century felt free and financially secure, where he did not have to make incredible efforts to achieve external well-being, “... Millions of people gave up their freedom with the same fervor with which their fathers fought for her; ... they did not strive for freedom, but looked for a way to get rid of it; … Other millions were indifferent and did not think that it was worth fighting and dying for freedom ”(E. Fromm, 2006, p. 19). The person preferred to become a cog in a large mechanism, and not to be free and compelled to do things every day, make decisions, make choices. The lack of choice, the strength of one's own position, the confidence that everyone around them thinks the same, turned out to be more important than the illusory virtues of freedom.

E. Fromm is also asked by the thought: "Is there not - apart from the innate desire for freedom - and an instinctive urge to obey?" (E. Fromm, 2006, p. 21). Numerous examples of dictatorships in the history of the 20th century, in which people voluntarily renounced freedom and preferred to completely obey the authorities, make us think about this issue too.

E. Fromm comes to the conclusion about the existence in the human psyche of "irrational, subconscious forces that largely determine human behavior" (Ibid .: 23). The desire for freedom is determined by the human mind, and the desire to renounce it - by these irrational forces. In addition, for E. Fromm, there is no doubt that a person's desire to escape from freedom is largely determined by the upbringing system, if it suppresses the activity and spontaneity of the child: “... In our country, upbringing and education too often lead to the destruction of immediacy and to the substitution of original mental acts imposed by feelings, thoughts and desires ”(Ibid .: 246). New trends in upbringing and education, the creation of conditions for the preservation of an innate desire for freedom by a person can create conditions in which escape from freedom will cease to be an irrational aspiration of the individual.


Consideration of freedom in various areas of humanitarian knowledge is in the context of the concepts and procedures that they have, which leaves an imprint on the results they achieve. Literature, especially oriented towards religion (F.M. Dostoevsky), associates freedom with such concepts as faith, the highest ideal, and sin. Genuine freedom seemed to the writer the lot of a deeply religious person and had the goal not to achieve happiness in the form of self-realization, but, on the contrary, self-determination in God.

The content of philosophical freedom unfolds in the field of the concepts of "transcendence and" transcending "," essence "and" existence "," free will "and" creativity ". The ontologically transcendental approach defines freedom as the transcendental basis of all being. Such freedom is unknowable, it owns a person, turns into Luciferian freedom and makes a person, ultimately, absolutely guilty of everything. In the procedural-transcendental approach, freedom exists as the internal capabilities of a person who realizes himself as a "self". Possible or necessary, it is originally inherent in a person and dooms a person to loneliness.

Freedom developed by philosophical means is largely unrealizable in socio-political practice. In sociology, the content of freedom is analyzed in the context of the concepts of “choice”, “duty”, “responsibility”. Freedom is specified to the level of "social freedom", which, in fact, is presented as a mental attitude, as the possibility of choosing options for action programmed by the social system.

“Regulated freedom” in political science is associated with the concepts of “power”, “ideology”, “pattern of behaviour”. It does not directly depend on a person and is formed by political means in the form of persuasion, suggestion, compromise. The interests of the individual and the state must fit within the “boundaries of freedom”.

Socio-psychological freedom is considered as a subjective feeling of independence, which makes the responsibility for the existence of a person only on himself. The majority prefer to “escape” from such freedom, and mechanisms of “liberation from freedom” are formed in culture.

The above consideration of freedom in literature, philosophy, sociology, political science and social psychology allows us to conclude that in order to retain and integrate the content developed in these areas of knowledge, it is necessary to form a broader cognitive tool in the form of the concept of freedom. It is he who allows you to reflect the multidimensionality of human existence.


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31 March 2022

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Lavrukhina, I. M., Glushko, I. V., Krylova, M. N., & Ostapenko, I. A. (2022). Opportunities And Necessity Of Forming The Concept Of Freedom. In I. Savchenko (Ed.), Freedom and Responsibility in Pivotal Times, vol 125. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 82-89). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2022.03.10