What is Freedom?

{From Rick Marken (2014.06.25.1800)]
Thanks to all of you who posted those great responses to my "What is Freedom" question. Rather than comment on each one I think I'll just give you my thoughts on this.
I think everyone who commented would (or did) define freedom as I would: being in control. Freedom could be defined as "the ability to do whatever one wants" but we know, from the fact that behavior is control, that "doing" is a control process, which means that it involves producing intended results by whatever means are necessary. Once an intended result, such as making scrambled eggs, has been "freely" selected we are no longer free to select the means (actions) we use to produce that result (we have to crack eggs, beat them, wait as long as necessary for the butter to melt in the pan, etc). We can avoid making all these qualifications is we just say that freedom is being in control.
Defining freedom as "being in control" also gives a better understanding of what promotes and what hinders "freedom". Martin Taylor did a nice job of pointing out some of these. For example, Martin points out that one of the main enemies of freedom (ability to control) is lack of skill. If you don't know how to control you can't be in control. so uneducated (and untrained) people are not truly free people. Martin also mentions disturbances as an impediment to control. But it is really only two kinds of disturbance that are the true impediments to people's ability to control: one is the "insuperable" disturbance created by natural disaster; the other is the active disturbance produced by other controllers who are trying to control you. The latter kind of disturbance is experienced as "coercion" and I think it is what most people are thinking of when they worry about losing their freedom. What they are worried about is losing their ability to be in control due to the powerful controlling done by other people: the tyrants and dictators whose freedom involves their ability to control other people.
One of the interesting insights one gets from looking at freedom as the ability to control is that the ability to control depends requires cooperation with other controllers. This is particularly true for human controllers, who control much more successful when they cooperate than when they don't. The contribution of cooperation to the ability of humans control can be seen in the most "primitive" human societies where people have to cooperate (in the form of hunting groups)\ in order to be able to control for food. In modern society this cooperation shows up in the incredible degree of specialization of control abilities and coordination of those abilities that makes possible the production of the goodies that give the individuals living in these societies incredible control over their worlds.
And what is interesting about this cooperative control is that it involves giving up some control -- indeed, allowing ourselves to be controlled --in order to get better control. For example, when we work for a company we are agreeing to give up some of our ability to control -- when we get up,what we will spend out day doing, etc -- in trade for money that allows us to but other cooperatively produced products that give us a much greater ability to control than we could possibly have had if we had "gone it completely alone".
But cooperation -- allowing oneself to be controlled in trade for an increased individual ability to control -- is risky, even when it is done by agreement. The people who by agreement are the one's whose rules we will follow can (and sometimes do) get carried away with their power and what we get is the CEO who makes 350 times what his workers make or the president who sends his army to war on false pretenses. I think people are aware of the fact that their agreements to be controlled in exchange for gaining better control can be violated by those they agree to be controlled by. For some reason people seem to be more worried about this when the people who they have agreed can control them are "the government" rather than "the management". I think it may just have to do with the way it is discussed in public. But I think this fear of losing one's freedom (ability to control) is always going to be a part of human society where the ability of individuals to be in control always depends on cooperation with other controllers, which involves allowing oneself to be controlled to some extent.
I really don't know what the solution to this problem -- the problem of fear of loss of control due to the necessity of cooperating in order to have control -- is. Any suggestions?
Best
Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
<http://www.mindreadings.com>www.mindreadings.com

[John Kirkland 214.06.26]

Barb and I have just spent a month touring Iran. It came as a surprise to others we met there when they found we were a tour party of two; we’d designed our semi-flexible entire itinerary, often as the only white faces on public transport and in the streets.

What I’m getting to here is that Barb became was what I started to call ‘the invisible woman’; men would bump into her on the streets never giving way, whenever we were entering into conversation the other party would direct all communication to me and so on and so forth. That, and the limited wardrobe she was permitted to wear (including head-covering), was prescribed. As a result I experienced a completely different Iran than any solo 20 year old or formal tour party member. It’s not necessary to go much further back in our own history to find parallel limits and constraints on women’s ‘freedom’.

Freedom, as it may be articulated in some quarters, for anybody here in the Middle East (and elsewhere too) is couched in peril, if not straight out fear. We met many students who told us about what was happening to them and their friends. Our stock reply was along the lines, ‘We are guests and cannot comment on what you are saying. We know what is going on.’ And then they’d let fly, unstoppable.

We were not free to exercise our views, women are not free in any sense of how we might consider freedom (after all a chadour is held in the teeth, so that certainly limits speech), and the students did not have ‘freedom of expression’. You may have seen the recent news item of Iranian males and females watching their World Cup game together in a cafe; and of the consequences.

And you’ve seen what’s happening where ISIL is in charge.

There’s a large section of world where freedom is a Western slogan, couched in values which are as foreign as my accent.

What I’m getting to is that if freedom is to be framed in PCT terms that are not parochial, then there may be a chance to make a significant change and prevent the slide towards treating women, children and others as slaves.

That, in my view, is the challenge behind Rick’s rather innocent challenge. Is the reply emic or is it etic?

Thanks Rick for kicking this off and the helpful commentaries from contributors. It’s only half-time.

Kind regards

···

On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:00 PM, Richard Marken rsmarken@gmail.com wrote:

{From Rick Marken (2014.06.25.1800)]

Thanks to all of you who posted those great responses to my “What is Freedom” question. Rather than comment on each one I think I’ll just give you my thoughts on this.

I think everyone who commented would (or did) define freedom as I would: being in control. Freedom could be defined as “the ability to do whatever one wants” but we know, from the fact that behavior is control, that “doing” is a control process, which means that it involves producing intended results by whatever means are necessary. Once an intended result, such as making scrambled eggs, has been “freely” selected we are no longer free to select the means (actions) we use to produce that result (we have to crack eggs, beat them, wait as long as necessary for the butter to melt in the pan, etc). We can avoid making all these qualifications is we just say that freedom is being in control.

Defining freedom as “being in control” also gives a better understanding of what promotes and what hinders “freedom”. Martin Taylor did a nice job of pointing out some of these. For example, Martin points out that one of the main enemies of freedom (ability to control) is lack of skill. If you don’t know how to control you can’t be in control. so uneducated (and untrained) people are not truly free people. Martin also mentions disturbances as an impediment to control. But it is really only two kinds of disturbance that are the true impediments to people’s ability to control: one is the “insuperable” disturbance created by natural disaster; the other is the active disturbance produced by other controllers who are trying to control you. The latter kind of disturbance is experienced as “coercion” and I think it is what most people are thinking of when they worry about losing their freedom. What they are worried about is losing their ability to be in control due to the powerful controlling done by other people: the tyrants and dictators whose freedom involves their ability to control other people.

One of the interesting insights one gets from looking at freedom as the ability to control is that the ability to control depends requires cooperation with other controllers. This is particularly true for human controllers, who control much more successful when they cooperate than when they don’t. The contribution of cooperation to the ability of humans control can be seen in the most “primitive” human societies where people have to cooperate (in the form of hunting groups)\ in order to be able to control for food. In modern society this cooperation shows up in the incredible degree of specialization of control abilities and coordination of those abilities that makes possible the production of the goodies that give the individuals living in these societies incredible control over their worlds.

And what is interesting about this cooperative control is that it involves giving up some control – indeed, allowing ourselves to be controlled --in order to get better control. For example, when we work for a company we are agreeing to give up some of our ability to control – when we get up,what we will spend out day doing, etc – in trade for money that allows us to but other cooperatively produced products that give us a much greater ability to control than we could possibly have had if we had “gone it completely alone”.

But cooperation – allowing oneself to be controlled in trade for an increased individual ability to control – is risky, even when it is done by agreement. The people who by agreement are the one’s whose rules we will follow can (and sometimes do) get carried away with their power and what we get is the CEO who makes 350 times what his workers make or the president who sends his army to war on false pretenses. I think people are aware of the fact that their agreements to be controlled in exchange for gaining better control can be violated by those they agree to be controlled by. For some reason people seem to be more worried about this when the people who they have agreed can control them are “the government” rather than “the management”. I think it may just have to do with the way it is discussed in public. But I think this fear of losing one’s freedom (ability to control) is always going to be a part of human society where the ability of individuals to be in control always depends on cooperation with other controllers, which involves allowing oneself to be controlled to some extent.

I really don’t know what the solution to this problem – the problem of fear of loss of control due to the necessity of cooperating in order to have control – is. Any suggestions?

Best

Rick


Richard S. Marken PhD
www.mindreadings.com

[From Rick Marken (2014.06.27.2050)]

···

John Kirkland (214.06.26)–

JK: Barb and I have just spent a month touring Iran. It came as a surprise to others we met there when they found we were a tour party of two; we’d designed our semi-flexible entire itinerary, often as the only white faces on public transport and in the streets.

RM: Fascinating post John! This does make wonderful grist for a discussion of the PCT approach to “freedom”.

JK: What I’m getting to here is that Barb became was what I started to call ‘the invisible woman’; men would bump into her on the streets never giving way, whenever we were entering into conversation the other party would direct all communication to me and so on and so forth. That, and the limited wardrobe she was permitted to wear (including head-covering), was prescribed…

JK: Freedom, as it may be articulated in some quarters, for anybody here in the Middle East (and elsewhere too) is couched in peril, if not straight out fear…

JK: We were not free to exercise our views, women are not free in any sense of how we might consider freedom (after all a chadour is held in the teeth, so that certainly limits speech), and the students did not have ‘freedom of expression’…

JK: There’s a large section of world where freedom is a Western slogan, couched in values which are as foreign as my accent.

JK: What I’m getting to is that if freedom is to be framed in PCT terms that are not parochial, then there may be a chance to make a significant change and prevent the slide towards treating women, children and others as slaves.

RM: I don’t know if it’s parochial or not but I think it’s been agreed (or I’ve agreed with myself) that what people are talking about when they talk about “freedom” is the ability to control; the ability to act as necessary to produce the results they want (or need). What your wife experienced in Iran was the inability to control for some things that she is probably used to controlling when she’s at home; she was unable to control for expressing her views or dressing as she wants (among other things, I’m sure). This control is being prevented, not by physical force, but by the implicit threat thereof. So she is actually free to express her views or dress as she wants in the sense that she is actually capable of controlling for those results; she doesn’t control for them in Iran, however, because she is also controlling for not getting hurt (and possibly getting you hurt too, I presume).

RM: One thing the PCT analysis brings to this situation is recognition of the fact that your wife’s freedom – her ability to control – is being prevented by the controlling of other people. These other people are the Iranian’s (both in the government and on the street) who are controlling for not hearing women express their views or wear Western dress. When we understand freedom to mean “being in control” then we can see that your wife’s freedom (her being in control) is being prevented by other people’s freedom (their being in control).

RM: What we have here is a conflict, which is a uniquely control system phenomenon. In a conflict two (or more) different control systems (or groups of control systems) – your wife being one and Iranian men, mainly, being the other – want a controlled variable indifferent reference states. For example, your wife wants the variable “how I’m dressed” to be in the state “Western casual” and the Iranian men want that variable in the state “Iranian formal”.

RM: When I put it this way perhaps you can see that if your wife were to get her freedom (to control for being dressed in Western style) she would be depriving the Iranian men of their freedom (to control for seeing her dressed in Iranian style). When you say that your wife is being deprived of her freedom you are just privileging one side of this conflict because seeing women dressing as they like is consistent with your values (and mine too, by the way). But the other side of the conflict thinks their point of view is just as legitimate; it is consistent with their values.

RM: The usual way of dealing with such conflicts is to start with each side trying to convince the other of the rightness of its position. The side that’s winning the conflict (which has some control over the variable in contention, as do the Iranians in the case of women’s dress) will say that things have to be that way for all kinds of reasons: religion, tradition, etc. The side that is currently losing the conflict (as in the case of women in Iran who want to dress as they want) will say they want their “freedom” (so “freedom” is just another word for nothing left to lose, after all!). Eventually such conflicts escalate into violence, and things get really ugly. When violence breaks out the underdogs in the conflict call themselves freedom fighters and the current winners of the conflict call the underdogs terrorists. And so it goes.

RM: I think what PCT can contribute to understanding situations like this is the approach to conflict solution taken by the PCT-based Method of Levels (MOL) psychotherapy. Although MOL is used to solve intrapersonal conflicts, the principles can also be applied to interpersonal conflicts. The main MOL principle of conflict resolution is that conflicts cannot be solved at the level of the conflict itself; that is, the conflict can be solved by trying to get the parties to the conflict to change their references for the variable in contention; people set their references for higher level reasons (to satisfy higher level references) so people can’t just change their references (goals) arbitrarily. The only way to solve a conflict is to get the parties to the conflict to “go up a level” to figure out what higher level references are served by setting the lower level references where they are, hopefully getting the parties up to a level where they can see that those higher level references can be better served by setting the lower level references differently.

RM: At an individual level this approach seems to work extremely well for the solution of intrapersonal conflicts (I recommend Tim Carey’s “Hold that thought!” for a nice description of the MOL approach to conflict resolution: http://www.newviewpublications.com/publications/theory-foundations/8/125/theory-foundations/P-hold-that-thought). I actually don’t know how it would work at the level of groups of individuals – like nations. Maybe that’s what diplomacy is about.

RM: But I would say that whenever we hear people saying that they want their “freedom” what they want is some variable to be in some state other than the one that a stronger party wants it in. Wanting freedom is really just wanting to have it “your way”. I know. I want my freedom too. Which means that I want to have things my way because I know my way is right! That’s why it’s so hard to resolve these conflicts. Both sides think they are right. And they are! Because from a PCT point of view what is “right” is defined by your references for what your perceptions should be.

RM: I do think that there what Powers called system concept perceptions – very high level perceptions that define the kind of social system we would like to live in – that, when controlled for by all (or most) members of a group, allow most members of the group to be in control of what they want, because controlling for such perceptions creates a social organization – social system that minimizes conflict (increases “freedom”; the ability to control). I think these are the system concepts that are now controlled in most Western democracies. It is a concept of a society that is based on principles such as egalitarianism, tolerance, secularism, democracy, and cooperation. So I do think that the system concept perceptions controlled by the majority of people in places like Iran – which do not incorporate some of the principles of the Western “social democratic” system concept – are a source of conflict and thus reduced ability to control by many of its citizen – notably females. I think the only solution is that the less conflict producing “Western social democratic” system concepts will eventually become more prevalent in places like Iran as the younger generation sees the merits of controlling for these less dysfunctional system concepts

Best

Rick


Richard S. Marken PhD
www.mindreadings.com

[From Rick Marken
(2014.06.27.2050)]

[From Dag Forssell (2014.06.28 10:00 PDT)]

Lots of food for thought here. Many thanks to John and Rick.

Best, Dag

John Kirkland (214.06.26)–

JK: Barb and I have just spent a month touring Iran.� It came
as a surprise to others we met there when they found we were a tour party
of two; we’d designed our semi-flexible entire itinerary, often as the
only white faces on public transport and in the streets.

RM: Fascinating post John! This does make wonderful grist for a
discussion of the PCT approach to “freedom”.�

JK: What I’m getting to here is that Barb became was what I started
to call ‘the invisible woman’; men would bump into her on the streets
never giving way, whenever we were entering into conversation the other
party would direct all communication to me and so on and so forth. That,
and the limited wardrobe she was permitted to wear (including
head-covering), was prescribed…

JK: Freedom, as it may be articulated in some quarters, for anybody
here in the Middle East (and elsewhere too) is couched in peril, if not
straight out fear…

�
JK: We were not free to exercise our views, women are not free in any
sense of how we might consider freedom (after all a chadour is held in
the teeth, so that certainly limits speech), and the students did not
have ‘freedom of expression’…

�
JK: There’s a large section of world where freedom is a Western
slogan, couched in values which are as foreign as my accent.

JK: What I’m getting to is that if freedom is to be framed in PCT
terms that are not parochial, then there may be a chance to make a
significant change and prevent the slide towards treating women, children
and others as slaves. �

RM: I don’t know if it’s parochial or not but I think it’s been agreed
(or I’ve agreed with myself) that what people are talking about when they
talk about “freedom” is the ability to control; the ability to
act as necessary to produce the results they want (or need). What your
wife experienced in Iran was the inability to control for some things
that she is probably used to controlling when she’s at home; she was
unable to control for expressing her views or dressing as she wants
(among other things, I’m sure). This control is being prevented, not by
physical force, but by the implicit threat thereof. So she is actually
free to express her views or dress as she wants in the sense that she is
actually capable of controlling for those results; she doesn’t control
for them in Iran, however, because she is also controlling for not
getting hurt (and possibly getting you hurt too, I presume).�

RM: One thing the PCT analysis brings to this situation is recognition of
the fact that your wife’s freedom – her ability to control – is being
prevented by the controlling of other people. These other people are the
Iranian’s (both in the government and on the street) who are controlling
for not hearing women express their views or wear Western dress. When we
understand freedom to mean “being in control” then we can see
that your wife’s freedom (her being in control) is being prevented by
other people’s freedom (their being in control).�

RM: What we have here is a conflict, which is a uniquely control system
phenomenon. In a conflict two (or more) different control systems (or
groups of control systems) � – your wife being one and Iranian men,
mainly, being the other – want a controlled variable indifferent
reference states. For example, your wife wants the variable “how I’m
dressed” to be in the state “Western casual” and the
Iranian men want that variable in the state “Iranian formal”. �

RM: When I put it this way perhaps you can see that if your wife were to
get her freedom (to control for being dressed in Western style) she would
be depriving the Iranian men of their freedom (to control for seeing her
dressed in Iranian style). When you say that your wife is being deprived
of her freedom you are just privileging one side of this conflict because
seeing women dressing as they like is consistent with your values (and
mine too, by the way). � But the other side of the conflict thinks their
point of view is just as legitimate; it is consistent with their values.�

RM: The usual way of dealing with such conflicts is to start with each
side trying to convince the other of the rightness of its position. The
side that’s winning the conflict (which has some control over the
variable in contention, as do the Iranians in the case of women’s dress)
will say that things have to be that way for all kinds of reasons:
religion, tradition, etc. The side that is currently losing the conflict
(as in the case of women in Iran who want to dress as they want) will say
they want their “freedom” (so “freedom” is just
another word for nothing left to lose, after all!). Eventually such
conflicts escalate into violence, and things get really ugly. � When
violence breaks out the underdogs in the conflict call themselves freedom
fighters and the current winners of the conflict call the underdogs
terrorists. And so it goes.�

RM: I think what PCT can contribute to understanding situations like this
is the approach to conflict solution taken by the PCT-based Method of
Levels (MOL) psychotherapy. Although MOL is used to solve intrapersonal
conflicts, the principles can also be applied to interpersonal conflicts.
The main MOL principle of conflict resolution is that conflicts cannot be
solved at the level of the conflict itself; that is, the conflict can be
solved by trying to get the parties to the conflict to change their
references for the variable in contention; people set their references
for higher level reasons (to satisfy higher level references) so people
can’t just change their references (goals) arbitrarily. The only way to
solve a conflict is to get the parties to the conflict to “go up a
level” to figure out what higher level references are served by
setting the lower level references where they are, hopefully getting the
parties up to a level where they can see that those higher level
references can be better served by setting the lower level references
differently.�

RM: At an individual level this approach seems to work extremely well for
the solution of intrapersonal conflicts (I recommend Tim Carey’s
“Hold that thought!” for a nice description of the MOL approach
to conflict resolution:

http://www.newviewpublications.com/publications/theory-foundations/8/125/theory-foundations/P-hold-that-thought

). I actually don’t know how it would work at the level of groups of
individuals – like nations. Maybe that’s what diplomacy is about.�

RM: But I would say that whenever we hear people saying that they want
their “freedom” what they want is some variable to be in some
state other than the one that a stronger party wants it in. Wanting
freedom is really just wanting to have it “your way”. I know. I
want my freedom too. Which means that I want to have things my way
because I know my way is right! That’s why it’s so hard to resolve these
conflicts. Both sides think they are right. And they are! Because from a
PCT point of view what is “right” is defined by your references
for what your perceptions should be.�

RM: I do think that there what Powers called system concept perceptions
– very high level perceptions that define the kind of social system we
would like to live in – that, when controlled for by all (or most)
members of a group, allow most members of the group to be in control of
what they want, because controlling for such perceptions creates a social
organization – social system that minimizes conflict (increases
“freedom”; the ability to control). � I think these are the
system concepts that are now controlled in most Western democracies. It
is a concept of a society that is based on principles such as
egalitarianism, tolerance, secularism, democracy, and cooperation. � So I
do think that the system concept perceptions controlled by the majority
of people in places like Iran – which do not incorporate some of the
principles of the Western “social democratic” system concept –
� are a source of conflict and thus reduced ability to control by many of
its citizen – notably females. I think the only solution is that the
less conflict producing “Western social democratic” system
concepts will eventually become more prevalent in places like Iran as the
younger generation sees the merits of controlling for these less
dysfunctional system concepts

Best�

Rick

···

Richard S. Marken PhD

www.mindreadings.com