So, what does freedom mean to us?
- When: 30th August
- Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
- Location: Tyree, Room, John Niland Scientia Buidling (G19)
Professor Quentin Skinner
Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities
Queen Mary, University of London
Perhaps the most widely accepted understanding of the idea of personal freedom is that it can be defined in negative terms as absence of interference. My lecture begins by noting that, because the concept of interference is such a complex one, this general agreement has turned out to be compatible with a great deal of disagreement about the conditions under which it may be legitimate to claim that freedom has been infringed. I am chiefly concerned, however, with those writers who have wished to challenge the core assumption that freedom is best understood as absence of interference. Some doubt whether the presence of freedom is best defined in terms of an absence at all, and instead attempt to connect freedom with specific patterns of moral behaviour But other critics -- on whom my lecture will end by focusing -- agree that the presence of freedom is best understood as the absence of something, while arguing that freedom fundamentally consists in the absence not of acts of interference but rather of broader conditions of arbitrary domination and dependence. I conclude by noting some of the implications of this view of freedom for the proper conduct of democratic government.
Quentin Skinner is currently the Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London. Over a distinguished career he has held many prestigious appointments, including Professor of Political Science and Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous works on political theory and intellectual history, and his ‘Foundations of Modern Political Thought’ was nominated by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential books published since the second world war.
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