We have seen that Crusoe, as in the case of any man, has freedom of will, freedom to choose the course of his life and his actions. Some critics have charged that this freedom is illusory because man is bound by natural laws. This, however, is a misrepresentation—one of the many examples of the persistent modern confusion between freedom and power. Man is free to adopt values and to choose his actions; but this does not at all mean that he may violate natural laws with impunity—that he may, for example, leap oceans at a single bound. In short, when we say that “man is not ‘free’ to leap the ocean,” we are really discussing not his lack of freedom but his lack of power to cross the ocean, given the laws of his nature and of the nature of the world.
Crusoe’s freedom to adopt ideas, to choose his ends, is inviolable and inalienable; on the other hand, man, not being omnipotent as well as not being omniscient, always finds his power limited for doing all the things that he would like to do. In short, his power is necessarily limited by natural laws, but not his freedom of will. To put the case another way it is patently absurd to define the “freedom” of an entity as its power to perform an act impossible for its nature!
If a man’s free will to adopt ideas and values is inalienable, his freedom of action—his freedom to put these ideas into effect in the world, is not in such a fortunate condition. Again, we are not talking about the limitations on man’s power inherent in the laws of his own nature and of the natures of other entities. What we are talking about now is interference with his sphere of action by other people—but here we are getting a bit ahead of Robinson Crusoe and our discussion. Suffice it to say now that, in the sense of social freedom—of freedom as absence of molestation by other persons—Crusoe is absolutely free, but that a world of more than one person requires our further investigation.
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