Saving positive freedom

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58 Scopus citations


In this article, I respond to Eric Nelson 's claim (in "Liberty: One Concept Too Many?") that the most prominent versions of a positive concept of freedom all reduce to negative notions. I argue that in his otherwise scholarly and well-argued article, Nelson confuses a conceptual dispute with a normative one based on moral or political principle. Further, I point out that the traditional critique of positive conceptions of liberty, which rests on skepticism about perfectionist conceptions of political value, is lost if we see the debate in the way Nelson lays it out. When these issues are disentangled, I suggest that there is indeed conceptual space for uniquely "positive" conceptions of freedom, and I suggest that the idea of "autonomy" can be taken for such a notion and indeed represents a value worth taking seriously in current discussions of justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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