Positive Freedom and the General Will

Piper L. Bringhurst and Gerald Gaus

in The Oxford Handbook of Freedom

Published in print April 2018 | ISBN: 9780199989423
Published online October 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199989850 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Positive Freedom and the General Will

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This chapter shows how one understanding of positive liberty—freedom as reasoned control—is presupposed by relations of moral responsibility. Rousseau’s “quixotic quest”—insuring that all subjects of the moral law remain morally free—is necessary to maintain responsibility relations within a moral community. Unless all are free to exercise reasoned control in accepting moral demands, they cannot be held responsible for failure to comply. We then inquire whether the concept of the general will can reconcile positive freedom and moral responsibility with regulation by a common moral law. Rousseau’s account seems inappropriate for a deeply diverse society because it holds that the general will arises from an essential identity of citizens’ interests. Instead, Bosanquet’s work suggests two contemporary proposals for ways in which a diverse society might share a general will, explaining in turn how its members are all fit to be held responsible for violating its moral rules.

Keywords: Bosanquet; diversity; general will; moral responsibility; positive freedom; reasoned control; Rousseau

Article.  9967 words. 

Subjects: Epistemology

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