Free Thoughts

Friedrich Schiller Weimar Classicism Schlosspark Tiefurt Goethe

In the third chapter of Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere, the protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra, who has just returned to the Philippines from Europe, is the guest of honor at a banquet and becomes subject to the curiosity of the other guests in this dialogue (with English translation) :

“Alin sa bansa sa Europa ang higit ninyong naibigan?” ang lalaking mapula ang buhok.

“Higit pong gusto ko ang Espanya na siya kong ikalawang bayan.  Pero naibigan ko rin po ang lahat ng ibang lugar na pinuntahan ko.”

Si Laruja naman: “Iniisip kong napakaraming bansa ang inyong narating.  Sa mga bansang narating ninyo, ano po ang pinakamahalagang bagay na inyong nakita?”

Sandaling nag-isip si Ibarra.  “Mahalaga po sa anong batayan?”

“Halimbawa po’y sa relihiyon, sa pulitika, sa lipunan, sa kabuhayan…sa lahat po ng bagay.”

Matagal munang nag-isip si Ibarra bago sumagot.  “Bago po ako pumunta sa isang bayan, pinag-aaralan ko muna ang kasaysayan ng bayang iyon.  Pinag-aaralan ko kung paano iyon umunlad at sumulong ang kabuhayan.  At natuklasan ko, ang paghihirap o pag-unlad ng isang bayan ay laging may kaugnayan sa kalayaan o kagipitan ng naturang bayan.  Pag malaya ang kaisipan ng mga mamamayan, mas malamang na maunlad din ang kanilang kabuhayan.”

English Translation (by Charles Derbyshire with my own alterations as well):

“Which country in Europe did you grow fond of the most?” asked the rubicund youth.

“After Spain, my second fatherland, I don’t have a preference for any other.  However, I would choose the freest country. ”

“And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you consider the most notable thing that you have seen?” inquired Laruja.

Ibarra appeared to reflect.  “Notable–in what way?”

“For example, regarding religion, politics, society, livelihood — everything.”

Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying.  “Before visiting a country, I study its history.  I study how it developed and its well-being progressed.  I have observed that the hardships or progress of a country is always related to the freedom or oppression of that country.  If the citizens think freely, then it’s highly likely that they will be more developed.”

Immanuel Kant Thinking Cap

Photo Credit: Ariel arito

Now, philosopher Immanuel Kant also discusses freedom in his An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?:

…For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied.  It is the freedom to make public use of one’s reason at every point.  But I hear on all sides, “Do not argue!”  The Officer says: “Do not argue but drill!” The tax collector: “Do not argue but pay!”  The cleric: “Do not argue but believe!”  Only one prince in the world says, “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” Everywhere there is restriction on freedom.

Which restriction is an obstacle to enlightenment, and which is not an obstacle but a promoter of it?  I answer: The public use of one’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.  The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment…

Whether the use of reason is public or private, the bottom line is no one can really restrict another person’s thoughts.  Our actions may be limited by law, but our thoughts can never be restrained.

Therefore, freedom is achieved by thinking.

If freedom is simply doing as we please, and doing without thinking, then animals have achieved freedom.

So freedom is about thinking.  Thinking beyond limits.

Because if one’s thoughts are limited by ignorance or emotions, then one would not be free from those things.

Freedom is achieved by thinking beyond limits while acting in accordance with the law.

Who doesn’t have this ability?

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

Bald Eagle American Flag Fourth of JulyPhoto Credit: Pam Roth (Bubbels on


Espino, Vivencio O. Noli Me Tangere ni Dr. Jose Rizal. Philippines: Flo-Vi Enterprises, 1995

This entry was posted in Classical/Enlightenment Thoughts, Development, Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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