Freedom of Thought

04 November 2023
This event is ended
15h00 - 18h00
Not about freedom of speech this time, as is frequently a topic of debate and discussion, but, more directly, freedom of thought…
How free are we in fact to think? Superficially, we might conclude that we are _always_ free to think, since nobody and nothing can prevent us from thinking what we think.
But exploring this more deeply, we may well become aware via introspection that thoughts simply appear in our heads. Whether we are alone “thinking to ourselves” or participating in a conversation with others, what we think at any moment simply makes its presence in our (sub)consciousness. At a dinner party, if conversation is allowed to be spontaneous, none of the participants will know what they will be talking about in an hour’s time.
Understood this way, what does freedom of thought actually mean? Is “being allowed to think spontaneously” a sufficient condition for experiencing freedom of thought?
Should “not being distracted” be considered an additional necessary condition? Only when not distracted can we enjoy full mental space and freedom to think…
Even when both these conditions are fulfilled, however, the question remains as to what precisely determines which thoughts come into our head. To what extent do or can we _choose our thoughts_? We constantly experience choosing things – and choosing to do things – but what about choosing thoughts?
Thesis: we can experience freedom of thought if and only if the thoughts that enter our consciousness are thoughts that we would wish or choose to have.
A psychiatric patient suffering from an extreme case of OCD and experiencing being enslaved by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour we might naturally and intuitively describe as enjoying neither freedom of thought nor freedom of behaviour. Yet… upon further reflection we realize that we _all_ find ourselves in a similar condition, prisoners of our own unique thoughts and, by consequence, prisoners of our own individual behaviours…
Can it (not) then be argued that only after learning how to _choose_ our thoughts, can we truly experience freedom of thinking? What would “choosing our thoughts” actually mean?
What about freedom of feeling and emotion? Would true freedom in this respect (not) entail the freedom to experience the feelings and emotions that we would wish to have? Or perhaps complementarily, feelings and emotions that are “appropriate”, “productive” and “healthy”?
How are mental capacity and freedom interrelated? As a correlate to external (circumstantial and environmental) options, would enjoying a greater range of options in one’s “mental environment” (not) translate into greater overall freedom? And conversely, does greater freedom (not) entail a greater mental capacity to choose?
This session’s discussion will be an opportunity to critically explore all of these questions.
For those who are able to, please feel free to show up from 14h30 on, so that we can all get our drinks by 15h and start without too much retard. Looking forward to seeing you all!