Raymond Plant

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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  • History of Western Philosophy
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Freedom or liberty—the terms will be used interchangeably in this account—is obviously of fundamental importance to politics. The ideal of a free society is one that animates a range of political positions, and its pursuit has been a galvanizing force in both national and international politics. Ideas about freedom have varied through Western history. One of the major variations is to be found in the contrast between positive and negative liberty. A positive conception of liberty is that freedom is not just or even freedom from coercion and interference but, rather, is realized in living a particular way of life in accordance with a conception of virtue. Positive liberty in this sense is goal directed and implies that to be free involves living in accordance with certain moral values. It is frequently argued that there are two ways of grounding ideas of basic moral rights: liberty and interests. The distinction between negative and positive liberty is important here. On the negative view of rights, a right is a protection against forbidden forms of coercion.

Keywords: freedom; positive liberty; negative liberty; rights; coercion; politics; interests

Article.  7595 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Feminist Philosophy

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