Tag Archives: autonomy

Book Announcement: A Brief History of Liberty

A Brief History of Liberty coverI just wanted to announce the publication of my book with David Schmidtz, A Brief History of Liberty.

It’s something of an unusual book for philosophers, because it’s as much a genuine history (and economics, psychology, law, and sociology) book as it is a philosophy book. I’d summarize our motivation for the project as follows: Dave and I note that historically, philosophers and regular people have used the word “liberty” to refer to a wide range of related things. When philosophers debate what the word “liberty” refers to, or which kind of liberty is most important, they often have a background assumption that liberty, whatever that is, is to be promoted by government in a particular way. But that’s not a good assumption. What role government, or any institution, ought to play in promoting a particular kind of liberty is determined not by conceptual analysis, but by investigating (empirically) what government and other institutions are likely to accomplish. What value any kind of liberty has is also for the most part contingent—we need to see what having certain kinds of liberties does to people, and what happens to people when those liberties are absent. Again, this goes beyond philosophy and requires empirical work. Also, what relationship different kinds of liberty with one another requires empirical work. For instance, while people might debate whether negative or positive liberty is more important, we instead note that empirically, it looks like protecting negative liberty has a long and non-accidental historical track record of promoting positive liberty. read more...

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