Negative and Positive Freedom

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Gerald MacCallum's groundbreaking explication of Freedom as a Triadic Relation. "Freedom is thus always of something (an agent or agents), from something, to do, not do, become, or not become something; it is a triadic relationship." p. 314. Originally in The Philosophical Review, reprinted in The Liberty Reader pp. 100-129. "This paper challenges the view that we may usefully distinguish between two kinds or concepts of political and social freedom - negative and positive.. the distinction between them has never been made sufficiently clear, is based in part upon a serious confusion..."

"Taking the format 'x is (is not) free from y to do (not do, become, not become) z', x ranges over agents, y ranges over such 'preventing conditions' as constraints, restrictions, interferences, and barriers, and z ranges over actions or conditions of character or circumstance." p. 314

"Consequently, anyone who argues that freedom from is the 'only' freedom, or that freedom to is the 'truest' freedom, or that one is 'more important than' the other, cannot be taken as having said anything both straightforward and sensible about two distinct kinds of freedom. He can, at most, be said to be attending to, or emphasizing the importance of, only one part of what is always present in any case of freedom." p. 318

"In recognizing that freedom is always both freedom from something and freedom to do or become something, one is provided with a means of making sense out of interminable and poorly defined controversies concerning, for example, when a person really is free, why freedom is important, and on what its importance depends." p. 319

"The differences would be rooted in differing views on the ranges of the term variables-that is, on the ('true') identities of the agents whose freedom is in question, on what counts as an obstacle to or interference with the freedom of such agents, or on the range of what such agents might or might not be free to do or become... It is therefore crucial, when dealing with accounts of when persons are free, to insist on getting quite clear on what each writer considers to be the ranges of these term variables." pp. 319-320


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