The Origin of Liberty

“Liberty is about us as social beings, and so it is a social concept.”  Charles Fried, Modern Liberty, 2007 p. 76.

Think about this – (a) Many advocates of liberty focus on egoism and individualism as the foundation of liberty. Fried does as well by grounding liberty in our individual autonomy. The claim that liberty is a social concept is debatable. (b) This debate is both political and metaphysical – 1. Is the nature of my liberty, as an ethical restraint on you, and the state, socially determined? 2. Is the source of our concept of liberty, so that it is part of our language that we can talk about, formed through social interaction.

Could Crusoe, without Friday, be said to have any liberty? Would Friday, without Crusoe, ever have formed the idea of liberty?

About William Kline

William Kline is an associate professor in the department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
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