How Should We Think About Freedom?

MAR 26, 2014 | 6:00 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


5114: History Student Lounge


March 26, 2014: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM




The Committee on Social and Political Thought and the Ph.D. Program in History


Join eminent historian Quentin Skinner as he discusses the concept of individual freedom, arguing that the usual practice of defining it in negative terms as "absence of interference" is in need of qualification. Because the concept of interference is such a complex one, there has been much dispute, even within the liberal tradition, about the conditions under which it may be legitimate to claim that freedom has been infringed. Some doubt whether freedom is best defined as an absence at all, and instead attempt to connect the idea with specific patterns of moral behavior. Others agree that freedom is best understood in negative terms, but argue that it basically consists in the absence not of interference but of arbitrary power. This lecture will consider these disputes, but will then focus on those critics who have challenged the core liberal belief about absence of interference, drawing some implications for the proper conduct of democratic government.