Reclaiming two concepts of liberty

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (3):228-246 (2013)


The article responds to an influential critique of the view that there is a conceptual distinction between kinds of liberty. The critique in question began with Gerald MacCallum Jr’s famous argument that liberty is a single concept that has a triadic structure between agent, constraint, and end. Against this view, the article argues that the triadic structure offered by MacCallum is unable to conceptualize a particular distinct understanding of liberty. Following Charles Taylor, the article defends the view that there is a distinct ‘exercise-concept’ of liberty that the triadic structure cannot account for. In support of this claim, the article contests a recent argument that an exercise-concept of liberty can be conceptualized in terms of the triadic structure. The article argues that the triadic framework can only conceptualize an exercise-concept of liberty at the cost of abandoning the substance of that framework. To defend this, the article explains that the triadic structure and an exercise-concept are basically conceptually distinct in virtue of the fact that the former embodies a ‘static’ concept, whereas the latter embodies a ‘dynamic’ one. To complete the argument that an exercise-concept is a distinct concept of liberty, the article articulates a common theme that unifies both the triadic structure and an exercise-concept as concepts of liberty.

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References found in this work

Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government.Philip Pettit - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (196):415-419.
The Quality of Freedom.Matthew H. Kramer - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
Negative and Positive Freedom.Gerald C. MacCallum - 1967 - Philosophical Review 76 (3):312-334.

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Citations of this work

Unity and Disunity in the Positive Tradition.Michael Garnett - 2022 - In John Christman (ed.), Positive Freedom: Past, Present, and Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 8-27.

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