Monthly Archives: February 2009

PPPS: Freedom: Morality and Folk Intuitions

Broadly, this paper is concerned with the folk concept of freedom. In the paper, I consider non-philosophical intuitions about freedom by examining what ordinary people think about several interesting cases in which an agent’s freedom is restricted. I also compare the role which value is given in the folk theory to two other well known theories of freedom, one promoted by T.H. Green and the other by Isaiah Berlin. The result is not only philosophically interesting, but informative about how ordinary philosophical conceptions function.

I was originally led to write this paper by a combined interest in the concept of freedom and the influence of morality on intuitions.


Posted in Podcast, Posts, Symposia | 11 Comments

Spring 2009 Political Philosophy Podcast Symposium

We’ll be starting this semester’s podcast symposium this Friday. We have five papers this semester. The first paper is available for download for people who are interested in reading it prior to this Friday’s presentation:

“Positive and negative theories of liberty hold drastically different accounts of the role for value judgments in regard to freedom. This paper discusses the implications of one special type: moral judgments, and considers how moral judgments may affect ordinary intuitions about freedom in particular. This ‘ordinary’ concept of freedom contrasts both positive and negative theories of liberty and has some interesting implications of its own.”

The remaining papers are:

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On Public Reason and Justificatory Liberalism

Hi All,

This isn’t really my area, but I’ve been thinking a bit about public reason lately (in preparing to comment on a paper at the APA) and I could think of no better place to put my thoughts than here. I must say, first, that I’ve only taken a quick look at jerry Gaus’ and Chirstopher Eberle’s books so I must apologize to them if I misconstrue anything they say in what’s below. I should also say that, after the APA, I think I better understand what is going on with justificatory liberalism than when I wrote this up. I think I see the crucial premise underlying the view: that coercion on the basis of reasons people could never accept is so important that it trumps all (other) controversial moral concerns. What I’m still not seeing, though, is the argument for that premise. Though I agree that there is a pro tanto reason against such coercion, I don’t see any reason to think it is definitive. So, I guess what is below is a request for help in locating this argument. Here goes:

Liberalism is defined by a commitment to some kind of freedom. But there are many different ways of understanding freedom and, hence, liberalism. On some theories, each individual’s freedom from arbitrary interference is of primary importance. On others, negative freedom is important but people’s positive freedoms or capabilities also merit consideration. Yet other theories balance a concern for different kinds of freedom against other things of value.

On one particular brand of liberalism, justificatory liberalism, respecting others’ freedom requires advocating policies only on the basis of public reason. Many justificatory liberals believe that religious reasons are not appropriately public. Recently, justificatory liberals have turned toward epistemology arguing that the best epistemic theories support accounts of public reason that yield their desired ethical results. Some justificatory liberals suggest, for instance, that liberalism requires advancing policies only on secular bases.

Learning this, I was at first a bit taken aback, for it had not occurred to me that settling a debate in epistemology could decide a debate about whether it is appropriate to appeal to religious principles in justifying public policy (for instance). And, upon reflection, I see little reason to think, epistemology should bear that kind of weight. I am wondering if anyone might help me see why it should. (Though, my primary objective in this post is to suggest that a complaint that seems to be hidden in the appeal to public reason against relying on religious principles in policy debates is a poor one).

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The Anatomy of Justice: A Conference in Honour of Hillel Steiner

  • Date: 20-21 November, 2009
  • Location: University of Manchester

The Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT) is delighted to announce a conference celebrating the career of our distinguished colleague, Professor Hillel Steiner.  Professor Steiner’s pioneering work on freedom, rights, exploitation, and justice has profoundly influenced moral, political, and legal philosophy over the last forty years. This conference will bring together scholars from around the world to discuss some of the central themes from Professor Steiner’s work. Participants will include:

  • Ian Carter (University of Pavia)
  • G.A. Cohen (University of Oxford & University College London) (provisional)
  • Eve Garrard (University of Keele & University of Manchester)
  • Alan Hamlin (University of Manchester)
  • Matthew Kramer (University of Cambridge)
  • William Lucy (University of Manchester)
  • Eric Mack (Tulane University)
  • David Miller (University of Oxford)
  • Serena Olsaretti (University of Cambridge)
  • Michael Otsuka (University College London)
  • Jonathan Quong (University of Manchester)
  • Zofia Stemplowska (University of Manchester)
  • Peter Vallentyne (University of Missouri)
  • Philippe Van Parijs (Universite catholique de Louvain)

Further details regarding registration and accomodation will be forthcoming later this spring. For more details regarding MANCEPT please visit us 


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“3 Wishes”

Kant’s three maxims of “public sense” are:

(1) Think for yourself (the motto of the enlightenment)

(2) Think from the standpoint of everyone else

(3) Think consistently

Kant inspires me…. so I made this:  “3 Wishes



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Public Reason on Facebook

I recently created a facebook group for Public Reason, although not for any particular purpose. I may put stuff up there from time to time, and anyone else is welcome to do so too.

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