Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'freedom to'.
Yes, another one of my threads on political theory/science/terminology. If me posting so many in such a short period of time is getting on anyone's nerves, don't worry, this will (probably) be the last one I make for a while. Previously, I've hit up on rights, property, positive versus negative rights, and property rights reductionism (of which I'm critical). This time around I'm tackling the distinction between "freedom from" and "freedom to", the two different senses in which I've seen either of them used, and which of these senses is I think is more useful. Prior to my introduction to libertarianism/Objectivism, I had never of the distinction between "positive freedom" and "negative freedom". "Positive freedom" is "freedom to" whereas "negative freedom" is "freedom from". Those who lean libertarian and/or O'ist consider "negative freedom", specifically "freedom from coercion", to be "truer" than "positive freedom". This usage of "freedom from" and "freedom to" doesn't line up with how I believe the rest of the world uses those two phrases. In my experience, the meanings are switched around. "Freedom to" means being permitted to do something. "Freedom from" signifies a sort of imperative that conditions must be a certain way. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of choice are instances of "freedom to". Freedom from pollution, freedom from discrimination, and freedom from social pressure are examples "freedom from" (note to self: no shit, Sherlock). These meanings are more common in everyday discourse. Think of how some people, in response to those who do not wish to be offended, will say "it's freedom of speech, not freedom from being offended". Or how some conservatives, in trying to argue against the separation of church and state, will shout at the tops of their lungs "The First Amendment says freedom of religion, not freedom from religion!" (this one's rather stupid). If I was to choose between which of the pairs of senses is more useful, I'd pick the latter one. My first reason for this is that "freedom from coercion" seems much too particular, to the point of requiring multiply interpretations of "coercion", and also seems incoherent. My second reason is that "freedom to" seems to me to be a more accurate description of "freedom" and best captures the details of the concept. My third reason is that "freedoms from" coincide with sillier and more burdensome laws (i.e., freedom from smelling your neighbor's cooking, freedom from listening to your neighbor's music, etc.). Though I think this distinction is better, I'd still caution against using it as anything more than a general guideline. To wit, "freedom from torture" is perfectly acceptable as policy despite being needed to be expressed with the word "from".