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How to Write an Outstanding Definition Essay on Freedom

Freedom is a perfect, and fairly ubiquitous, topic for a definition essay and one which you can easily craft a spectacular essay around. The first thing you need to recognize is that you will never be able to satisfactorily lock down a concrete explanation of freedom. It simply isn't possible. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the mercurial nature of freedom will make it easier rather than harder to write your essay. No matter how you choose to define freedom, it is very unlikely that you will be wrong, but this doesn't mean you can write whatever you want. Instead it is an opportunity to focus on the quality of your writing. Concentrate on your style, your use of quotes and sources, your language and your grammar.

Make it interesting

Don't be cautious in the way you define freedom, professors and teachers will read hundreds of essays on freedom during their careers, and you need to make yours stand out. Put in the extra work to find interesting sources, or to interpret extremely erudite descriptions.

Start with someone like Isaiah Berlin who is well known for his own definition of freedom, but don't simply side with the middle-of-the-road authority figures. Perhaps you could work with Sartre's view of freedom. He essentially believed that freedom was almost unavoidable for human beings, that it was something which existed in the separation between the self and the world. Regardless of how you choose to define freedom, make it interesting and personal, if not entirely unique.

History is important

With a term like freedom it's imperative to give some thought as to how your definition ties in to the history of the word. Orlando Patterson has argued that the concept of freedom only emerged in contrast to slavery, since a society in which everyone is free doesn't need a word to describe freedom. Some languages didn't develop a word for freedom until very late, possibly because slavery was never institutionalized in the regions where the languages were spoken.

Beyond the origins of the concept it will be useful to examine how the definition has changed over time, is the freedom referred to in the declaration of independence the same freedom which was granted to slaves in the 1860's or the freedom which the civil rights movement protested for in the 1960's.

Look at figures like Montesquieu and Rousseau, in comparison to the founding fathers. The French Revolution and the American Revolution are closely linked by the idea of freedom, but was it the same freedom and does it differ from today's understanding? All of these questions need to be considered to give a comprehensive definition of freedom, just remember to believe in your own convictions regarding what exactly freedom represents.


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