top of page


My previous post was about my understanding of the most valuable version of the idea of freedom. In that post, I wanted to relate freedom to love and purpose. This left other areas unexplored, or at most implied by the content of that post. One example, which I think deserves more attention, is how my understanding of freedom (or "metamodern freedom") is a far more coherent idea than "modern freedom" which defines itself through optionality. Metamodern freedom is more coherent because it is non-anthropocentric; or, in other words, applies to the entire cosmos.

Anything and everything you know has "degrees" of freedom, and it does not suddenly begin with the emergence of human consciousness. It does not even start with less complex animals. I realized, after writing my last post, that it may not have been obvious that the "songless bird" and/or "wilted flower" are not simply symbolic of human freedom or its loss. Birds and flowers themselves are some of the bodies in which freedom resides.

I hope this post can illuminate more of this view and deepen your appreciation for how non-human freedom enhances human freedom. The former is not just a means to an end for the latter. Rather, both the human and non-human domains of freedom are enhanced and exalted by anti-anthropocentrism. This begins with an appreciation for how the basic "letters" of freedom, which came into actuality along with material particles, have since conspired amongst themselves to form “words” and “books” of far greater complexity.

Photo by Humberto Arellano on Unsplash

This makes no sense from the nihilistic stance on freedom, where it is seen as the unobstructed power to choose. A flower, for example, would, first and foremost, lack the necessary hardware to even contend for freedom. It does not make "willful" choices and seems obviously stuck in a pre-egoic determinism. As in, its habits and patterns are determined by something more automatic and mechanistic than the human being in the midst of conscious deliberation. And if we allow the modern idea of freedom to have the final say, there would be no optionality (as the presence of choices and the conscious power/will to choose between alternatives) which the flower could maximize, and thus its path through life would have nothing to do with freedom. You could grind this flower into the dirt with your heel, and there would be absolutely no moral implications, only a slight mess.

I do not accept this. Freedom, as I said previously, is akin to clearsightedness and internalization of one's true purpose. In psychological language it has to do with the individuation of the Self in the Ego. It contains the ideas of "means" or "action", but in a way which deprioritizes them behind the ends or metaphysical source of value to which they must necessarily be oriented.

This understanding of freedom permits its extension beyond humanity (or human-like consciousness). A wilted flower is less free than a blooming flower, because, although we can not conceive of a flower exercising "free will", we can appreciate that it has a purpose, independent of any human judgement. When it arches towards the sun's warmth, it is not unlike the person who passionately pursues their deepest calling. The difference is of degrees, not type. Both exist along a spectrum of freedom which, should humans disappear, would still persist.

In another previous post (Women Who Swim), I quote this line from the perspective of Marian, one of the characters in Iris Murdoch’s The Unicorn:

“She felt obscurely that if she started now to be afraid of the sea she would make some crack or fissure in her being through which other and worse fears might come.”

The sea, and her immersion in it, symbolize a transcendent experience and the Ego’s meeting with the Self. Her fear, of a “crack or fissure in her being”, seems well-founded: If she doesn’t swim, she will be gaining momentary safety and comfort, but losing access to the development of her true self.

This further illustrates the points I’ve been hoping to make about freedom. There is certainly a choice, a crucial moment of bifurcation, in the moment described above. But the presence of multiple choices is not, itself, freedom. Rather, freedom is the quality of Marian’s being (or selfhood) which will either be reinforced or diminished through every choice. In the story, she stops swimming, and is simultaneously entranced by Gaze Castle—symbolizing her arrested development and self-imprisonment.

And, to put it in terms of modern and metamodern freedom, I would simply say that it is deeply sad that modern freedom is so prominent in our world today. To use its lens, it would not matter whether Marian chose to swim or not in order to evaluate her freedom. One with this kind of freedom in their worldview might ask if she is sane and capable of making choices, or perhaps whether she is being coerced to make one choice or another. But, ultimately, this view makes power the first principle and essence of freedom, and that will be the true content of its concerns. Modern freedom’s two main questions are: Are there at least two choices present? And does the person or agent have the power to choose between alternatives? Beyond this, it asks no questions about the ends or moral implications of choices.

Metamodern freedom is distinguished on exactly this point. It says that it matters very much whether Marian chooses to swim or not, and that she will become more or less free through the act of choosing. Choice is still involved, but it is something which conveys the presence of our universe’s natural and intrinsic value; and, following this, the ubiquity of meaning embedded in all actions, and the unique moral demands of carrying human-level consciousness.

With this distinction, we can appreciate how we might make a cultural turn towards anti-anthropocentric love. Principally, a freedom “modernist” would admit only humans and perhaps a few other animals into a conversation about presence and degrees of freedom. A “metamodernist” would hold that freedom must be a universal property, because it is inexorably attached to value, and value must be the most basic feature of reality in any ontology which does not reduce to nihilism. (See my post on metamodernism for more on this subject in general, and know that in this context I am referring to “metamodern freedom” as I described in my previous post, which I see as meaningfully connected to other threads of ideas coalescing in the metamodern era.)

To be sure, it is not wrong to see humans as uniquely related to freedom at this moment in time. As both Teilhard de Chardin and present-day complexity science tell us, the universe has a telos, and always tends towards greater complexity, consciousness, and centricity while tending towards perfection. Human consciousness was a great leap in this process, and one which will lead to another great leap of self-surpassing. We bear a responsibility for how the ceaseless evolution of the cosmos unfolds, and the degree to which meaning, beauty, wisdom, freedom, and love are actualized and perfected. Becoming free, then, is an anti-anthropocentric venture, because we can only fully discover and create ourselves through a process of co-development with all that exists. Human freedom does not, and can not, exist as an island. Freedom is everywhere.

Human freedom and love are symbols of Freedom and Love as ubiquitous, absolute possibilities. This should remind us that both love and freedom existed long before we did, and it is anachronistically anthropocentric to believe that they begin and end with us.

Moral purpose is the blood-bond which connects the universe with itself. And freedom is a measure of attunement between one’s potential and actual contribution to the perfection of everything. Anti-anthropocentrism, then, is a practice of deepening and strengthening those bonds through participation in our own freedom and the freedom of everyone and everything that exists. It is the enactment of the idea that it is better to treat everyone and everything as ends in themselves, rather than objects to use for one’s own ends. And it is the act of choosing love instead of power.


bottom of page