Freedom and its unavoidable trade‐off

Analytic Philosophy 65 (1):22–36 (2024)
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In the debate on how we ought to define political freedom, some definitions are criticized for implying that no one can ever be free to perform any action. In this paper, I show how the possibility of freedom depends on a definition that finds an appropriate balance between absence of interference and protection against interference. To assess the possibility of different conceptions of freedom, I consider the trade-offs they make between these two dimensions. I find that pure negative freedom is clearly possible. Republican freedom might also be possible, though its protection requirement is too vague for a definitive verdict. Finally, the recently proposed ‘freedom as independence’ is impossible since it is an attempt to avoid the unavoidable trade-off.

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Lars Moen
University of Vienna


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