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Research Forum – Yannig Luthra (University of California Los Angeles): “Triangulating Social Freedom and Unfreedom”

November 29, 2018, 16:15–17:45
S 61 (RW I)

This paper sketches criticisms of a span of views about political liberty, which characterize freedom as lying in a wide, unobstructed, or secure span of options, or else in the full possession of the kind of individual agency that is characteristic of persons. My criticisms center on four main ideas. First, unfreedom is a distinctive substantive harm. Second, unfreedom is not a privative phenomenon, not a mere absence of freedom. Third, unfreedom, while non-privative, is also some kind of loss or denial of agency. Fourth, the unfreedom inflicted by oppression, while in some sense a profound loss of agency, can at the same time coexist with rich and robust expressions of characteristically human forms of agency in the lives of people who are oppressed. On the basis of this discussion I tentatively suggest that, as individuals, our freedom is inalienable. To understand unfreedom as central among the harms inflicted by oppression, we ought to look for it beyond the ways that oppression affects a person as an individual, and to see unfreedom instead as a corrupted form of social life.

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