The Concept of Security, Liberty, Fear and the State

In Philippe Bourbeau (ed.), Security: Dialogue Across Disciplines. Cambridge University Press. pp. 22-44 (2015)
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Abstract

Whilst security seems central to many moral and political problems, sustained examination of the concept by contemporary philosophers is rare. In this chapter I seek to re-ignite philosophical interest in security by uncovering some of the ways in which the concept has been both understood and misunderstood. I begin by exploring the scarce historical understandings of security within the Western philosophical canon, from the Epicureans through Hobbes and on to contemporary political philosophy, identifying the key themes which arise within the literature. I then provide an account of the structure of the concept of security, which lays bare its relationship to contemporary debates on the distinction between “natural” and “social” threats, on the political significance of fear, and on the nature of rights. Finally, I identify four key problems in moral and political philosophy – the balance between state and individual security, between liberty and security, the status of moral principles during emergencies and the trade-off between privacy and public safety – where a finer grained understanding of security can benefit normative theorising.

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Jonathan Herington
University of Rochester

Citations of this work

The Contribution of Security to Well-Being.Jonathan Herington - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 14 (3).
Climate-Related Insecurity, Loss and Damage.Jonathan Herington - 2017 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 20 (2):184-194.
Freedom, Security, and the COVID-19 Pandemic.Josette Anna Maria Daemen - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.

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