There is s song whose first line reads, "Born free, as free as the wind blows ...." which is true at the root of our being but in time we are born physically and mentally dependent on our parents and on all sustaining environmental and social factors. Only slowly do we gain physical and mental freedom. Our senses and brain develop so that we come to recognize objects, persons, ideas, and moral principle which move us to make choices. Motivation is an essential factor in decision making. For example, my decision to eat is usually motivated by hunger with a subconscious awareness that to maintain the good of my life I must eat. Our nature is not free in the sense that it has no aim or purpose. Our will is inclined by nature to the universal good. When we choose we must choose the good, be it an object, person, idea or action based on moral principle. We cannot choose absolute evil beause it does not exist, only lesser goods exist to entice our choices.
Let us look at a decision not to eat pork in 2 Mc 7. Here we see seven sons refusing to eat pork and suffer death. Why? As the second son was dying he said to the King, "You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying." (2 Mc 7:9) Here the motivation is the choice of life with God. For free will to function correctly, it must interrelate with intellectual knowledge and intentionality. "Without a determining motive the will is an empty faculty; only through the motive does it become active and real." (Rudolph Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, Poste to: alt.binaries, e-book, 1984, p. 64) This is why we do not hold mentally retarded persons morally responsible for their actions. On the other hand, persons with ability to reason and act with intention are held responsible for their actions and punished if they act contrary to right reason.
The popular American idea of freedom as the capacity to do whatever I please without moral or physical restraints is far from the meaning of true freedom. Long ago it was realized that following our passions lead to lesser freedom. In the Gita we read:
comes confusion of mind,
the loss of remenbrance, the forgetting of duty,
From this loss comes the ruin of reason,
and the ruin of reason leads man to destruction."
(Bhagavad Gita, 2:63)
True freedom can only be achieved by realizing exhistentially the pupose for which we were created. And, what is that? To know, serve and love God in this world and to live happily with him forever in heaven. Avary Cardinal Dulles, S.J. expresses this truth as follows: "Freedom consists of self-possession and self-determination. It is given to us so that we may voluntarily embrace the true human good. .... We are born in almost total dependence on others, but, by education and practice, we gradually expand our zone of freedom. In the deepest sense, freedom is a gift of God because we cannot liberate ourselves from our illusions and selfish desires without divine grace. Jesus can therefore said: You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (Jn 8:32).