Axel Honneth, “Three, Not Two, Concepts of Liberty”

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Even for those among us who are not altogether convinced by Isaiah Berlin's famous essay "Two Concepts of Liberty," it has by now become commonplace to adopt a distinction between "negative" and "positive" liberties that largely coincides with the one he offered. In my lecture I defend the thesis that this bifurcation of the concept of freedom is incomplete in a significant respect, because it omits a third type, which I will call "social freedom." I proceed first by illustrating with some well-known examples how we must understand this third form of freedom, which cannot be performed by one subject alone, but rather requires the cooperation of others. In the second step I want to recall briefly the philosophical tradition in which this idea of "social freedom" has always had a central place. Finally, I delve into the systematic question of whether the suggested model of freedom in fact designates a third concept, which does not conform to the traditional bifurcated understanding. Axel Honneth is a professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt and Columbia University, and the director of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt. This talk, the Dewey Lecture in Law and Philosophy, was recorded on November 12, 2014.

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