Reflections on the Value of Freedom

In Sirkku Hellsten, Marjaana Kopperi & Olli Loukola (eds.), Taking the Liberal Challenge Seriously: Essays on Contemporary Liberalism at the Turn of the 21st Century. Ashgate 260 (1997)
I examine the claim that the underlying importance given to freedom within a society's scheme of values varies with historical circumstance and social context (I shall sometimes call this the "relativist claim"). The point of the examination will be to attempt to determine the manner in which, and the extent to which, this claim really endangers the liberal argument, which seems to suggest that freedom is valuable everywhere and always. It will be seen that several apparent challenges may be dismissed, since for one reason or another they do not really threaten traditional liberalism. When these apparent (but non-threatening) challenges are pared away from the relativist claim, it will be seen that the remaining threat is on the one hand weaker, and on the other hand more dubious, than might have been supposed at first. This rather formal work will then set the stage for a proffered definition of the sort of "freedom" that is at stake in this discussion, and for my own attempt to offer answers to the questions about the value of freedom that I raise.
Keywords freedom  liberalism  social relativism
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