The Self at Liberty: Political Argument and the Arts of a Government

Ithaca, NY, USA: Cornell University Press (1997)
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The central task of this book is to map a subtle but significant addition to the political discourse on liberty since the early modern period; a gradual shift of focus form the individual secure in spheres of non-interference, or acting in accordance with authentic desires and beliefs, to the actions of a self at liberty. Being free stands opposed, classically, to being in someone else’s power, being subject to the will of another – in particular, to being constrained by the intentional actions of others. “Constrained” usually means having choices or opportunities taken away or limited by the designs of others. But what if we press the connection between intentions and constraints a bit further, focusing less on negative constraints and more on enabling ones? Constrained or unfree, that is, not simply through a limitation of choices or options, but where free choices and intentions themselves become the object of theoretical and practical attention. What does it mean to be free or unfree in relation to these kinds of “constraints”?
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