The Philosophy of Freedom: From Kant's Categorical Imperative to Existentialist Concepts

In philosophy, the concept of freedom has been an enduring subject of inquiry, captivating the minds of thinkers across the ages. From Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative to the existentialist notions of freedom, exploring this elusive concept has remained as elusive as ever. However, it is essential to approach these philosophical endeavours with a critical eye, challenging the established narratives and exposing the fallacies that lie within. In this article, we shall embark on an intellectual journey to dismantle the illusions of freedom woven into the fabric of philosophical thought.

Kant's Categorical Imperative: The Chains of Duty

Immanuel Kant, the esteemed Enlightenment philosopher, put forth the categorical imperative as a moral framework for pursuing freedom. According to Kant, freedom is adhering to universal moral laws, transcending personal desires and inclinations. While this may appear noble at first glance, a closer inspection reveals the inherent limitations of Kant's notion of freedom.

Kant's categorical imperative restricts freedom to an arbitrary set of moral duties. By divorcing space from individual autonomy and reducing it to adherence to prescribed rules, Kant creates a restrictive concept that confines individuals within a predetermined framework. True freedom cannot be achieved by submitting oneself to external moral obligations but by empowering individuals to exercise autonomy and make choices based on their rationality and desires.

Existentialist Concepts: The Mirage of Authentic Freedom

Existentialist philosophers, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche, sought to redefine freedom as a subjective experience rooted in individual existence. They emphasized the importance of personal responsibility and decision-making, advocating for creating meaning and values through conscious choices. While existentialism presents a departure from Kant's framework, it too succumbs to certain fallacies.

Existentialist concepts of freedom often romanticize the notion of individual autonomy, disregarding the interconnectedness and interdependence of human existence. The existentialist assertion that one can create meaning and values without acknowledging societal norms or ethical considerations is a dangerous oversimplification. True freedom should not be divorced from the social fabric but should strive for a delicate balance between individual autonomy and communal responsibility.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom: Freedom's Social Constraints

To fully comprehend the complex nature of freedom, one must confront the uncomfortable truth that freedom is not an absolute, unconstrained state. While we cherish the ideal of unrestricted personal liberty, it is crucial to acknowledge that freedom cannot be devoid of societal limitations. The illusion of absolute freedom disregards individuals' existence within a social contract, necessitating a delicate equilibrium between personal liberties and communal well-being.

The historical reality demonstrates the precariousness of absolute freedom. When societies descend into anarchic states or individuals prioritize their freedom above all else, chaos ensues. Therefore, freedom must be seen as a collective endeavour that requires us to recognize and respect the rights and freedoms of others. True freedom lies not in unbridled individualism but in the harmonious coexistence of individuals within a just and equitable social order.

Wit and Historical References: The Absurdity of Freedom's Pursuit

One cannot critique philosophical concepts without employing wit and historical references to illuminate the fallacies embedded within them. Consider the words of Voltaire, the great Enlightenment thinker, who once remarked, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." While this statement highlights the importance of freedom of expression, it also underscores the paradoxical nature of space itself.

In its pursuit, freedom often leads to clashes and conflicts of ideas, challenging the notion that it can exist as a harmonious and universally agreeable state. The freedom to express oneself implies the freedom to disagree, and this inherent contradiction must be embraced rather than dismissed. Through the clash of ideas and the testing of arguments, we arrive at a deeper understanding of freedom, transcending the illusory quest for an absolute and unattainable ideal.


From Kant's categorical imperative to existentialist concepts, the pursuit of freedom has been plagued by fallacies and illusions. We can dismantle the barriers that impede our understanding of true freedom by critically engaging with these philosophical frameworks. Acknowledging the limitations of rigid moral obligations and the pitfalls of unfettered individual autonomy, we recognize that freedom is a delicate balance between personal liberties and social responsibilities. Let us not be lured by the illusions of freedom but instead strive for a more nuanced understanding that encompasses the complexities of human existence and the societal fabric within which it is woven.

Plato Re-Imagined

This course includes 32 lectures covering most of Plato's dialogues and allowing the student to return to something divine. Divinity should resonate with secular and religious leaders alike. I present a compatible approach in my lecture on Consilience.

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