Ignorance, Incompetence and the Concept of Liberty

Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (4):428–446 (2007)
What is liberty, and can it be measured? In this paper I argue that the only way to have a liberty metric is to adopt an account of liberty with specific and controversial features. In particular, I argue that we can make sense of the idea of a quantity of liberty only if we are willing to count certain purely agential constraints, such as ignorance and physical incompetence, as obstacles to liberty in general. This spells trouble for traditional ‘negative’ accounts, against which I argue directly. My aim is to establish the following somewhat surprising claim: that if a political theory is to contain a principle regarding the protection, maximisation, or equalisation of some liberty, it must concern itself⎯on pain of conceptual incoherence⎯with the positive preconditions (in addition to the negative preconditions) of that liberty’s effective exercise.
Keywords Freedom  Liberty  Freedom Measurement
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9760.2007.00289.x
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References found in this work BETA
John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
David Hume (2009). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), The Monist. Oxford University Press 112.

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