What is Freedom for?

38 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2012 Last revised: 26 Dec 2012

Leslie Green

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 25, 2012

Abstract

Two conceptions of the value of political freedom are popular. According to one, freedom serves autonomy, creating one’s own path through life. According to the other, freedom serves authenticity, keeping faith with an identity one did not choose. This paper bridges the gap between these views in several ways. It shows that autonomy embraces some of the unchosen aspects of life that authenticity stresses, and that authenticity is consistent with scope for choice within an unchosen identity. It is also shows that both views share a stake in a neglected value, self-knowledge. Partisans of authenticity cannot keep faith with their identity if they do not know what it truly is. Partisans of autonomy cannot choose a path in life without knowing what the options are for them, and these options can be affected instrumentally and constitutively by their identity, which they therefore have a stake in knowing. Of course, there can be more than one sound argument in favor of freedom. But contrary to what many suppose, autonomy and authenticity are complementary, not competing, in making that case. The differences between them are matters of nuance and degree.

Keywords: liberty, choice, autonomy, authenticity, identity, Joseph Raz, Charles Taylor, Anthony Appiah, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, political philosophy, moral philosophy

Suggested Citation

Green, Leslie, What is Freedom for? (December 25, 2012). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 77/2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2193674 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2193674

Leslie Green (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Balliol College
Oxford
Oxford, UK, OX1 3BJ
United Kingdom

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kingston, Canada, Ontario K7L3N6
Canada

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