Freedom and its Loss: Hopes and Fears for the Political Order. Gore Lecture (O’Donovan, 2002)

“Freedom” is a term with a range of meanings, and tonight we shall need to notice three of them. First and most formally, it is the power to act, the ownership of one’s behaviour that distinguishes intelligent agents from creatures of instinct. This is a power of individual human nature, and the assertion of freedom in this sense always imports some kind of individualism. We know the freedom-as-defiance of the existentialist philosopher – or of the teenager who refuses to get out of bed in the morning. But freedom so asserted is abstract and unproductive. To give the term a moral significance, we must understand it in terms of the orientation of individuals to society.

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