Free thought is a concept in science fiction that describes a state of consciousness in which one can freely think, without interference or coercion.
Free thought, which emerged from the writings of Russian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, offers an alternative to the totalitarian systems that many see as our future.
Free thinking is based on a belief that one’s thoughts are free to act upon and that one can pursue one’s own self-interest without the interference of others.
It can be viewed as an extension of the notion of individuality, and it provides a space for one to express one’s unique ideas, thoughts, and values without fear of persecution or punishment.
The idea of free thought has a long history, from Socrates and Plato to Karl Marx and Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, more than 200 free thought projects exist worldwide, according to Free Thought Project.
Today’s TED Talk, by TED curator Ben Shapiro, takes a look at one of the more unique projects in the genre.
Shapiro, an American and a professor at Columbia University, recently told the story of a young man named Scott who became fascinated with the topic of free will and decided to try to make a free will project.
The young man had never met an atheist before, but Scott felt the need to educate himself on the topic.
In his TED talk, Shapiro says he has “fascinated” with the subject of free-will since his youth.
“I can’t believe how often people are shocked when they learn of their lack of free choices,” Shapiro told the audience at TEDX New York City.
The conversation began with a question from a young woman who asked, “How do I become a free thinker?”
Shapiro said he began to answer the question with the same answer he had received in his early years as a teenager: “The answer is that the answer is in the person.”
Shapiro explained that the individual is a complex, multifaceted entity.
He went on to explain that the basic idea of freedom comes from a book called The Golden Bough by Aristotle.
Aristotle, Shapiro said, was trying to explain why he called it a golden bough because it was so large and beautiful.
It was not just a symbol or a word, he said, it was a living being.
It did not just have two faces.
It had many, many eyes and a long tongue, he added.
He then went on, “You see, when we talk about freedom we don’t talk about an absolute right to choose.
We talk about the right to be free.”
Shapiro said that freedom was the idea of a person’s right to self-determination, a right to decide what they want to do with their lives.
“When we say that someone has the right not to choose, we’re not talking about their choice.
We’re talking about how that person can choose, and how that decision will have an effect on others,” he said.
The TED Talk then ended with a message from the young man.
“The idea of living without constraint is a beautiful thing,” he wrote.
“If you believe that your thoughts and feelings are free, your mind will not hold you back.”
“But what happens if you decide to take a free ride in your car, or your house or whatever?”
The TED talk also included an interview with the young atheist.
“It feels like a big leap to start believing in a deity, even when you don’t believe in a god,” the young woman said.
“But I feel like it’s possible.”
Shapiro responded that the idea that free will is an absolute and that no matter how we try to change the world, there will always be people who hold us back is an illusion.
Shapiro said the person’s decision is the biggest obstacle to a free and open society.
“A lot of people are trying to stop us from having this freedom,” he told the young lady.
“They’re trying to deny it, they’re trying the most they can to control it.”
Shapiro concluded his talk with the message that he hopes to inspire others to be open and embrace their true selves.
“What I want to tell people is, when you’re not feeling free, that’s a good thing.
If you can do that, you’re free,” he concluded.
“We’re in the midst of an epidemic of fear.
We can’t let fear stop us.”