The roads to freedom


A man walks along a road. Maybe he’s setting out for England. Maybe he’s setting out for France. Maybe he’s on ‘the roads to freedom’: he may be freeing himself from constraint or compulsion; he may be freeing himself to do things differently. He has an idea about freedom. He wants to be free.

Joel Feinberg’s book on Social philosophy begins with a chapter on freedom and constraint. It’s a wonderful chapter and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the concept of freedom.

He asks:

What then are we saying of a man when we say that he is free?

and he continues:

We may be saying very little, for the word “free,” without further specification, is often incompletely informative.

We have to examine  a) what someone is free from  b) what someone is free to do, and,       c) who it is whose freedom is at issue. (In this latter respect a person or group may be insisting on their ‘freedom’ even though the ‘freedom’ they wish to enjoy entails constraining others …)

Essential reading:

The Roads to Freedom’ (French: Les chemins de la liberté), a series of novels by Jean-Paul Sartre. (Intended as a tetralogy, it was left incomplete, with only three of the planned four volumes published.)

Memoirs of a dutiful daughter’ by Simone de Beauvoir

Wind, sand and stars’ by Antoine de Saint Expurey

Social philosophy‘ by Joel Feinberg

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