Liberal vs. Republican Notions of Freedom



One of the most interesting current debates about the ideal of freedom is the debate between the adherents of the recently revived republican notion of negative freedom, most notably Quentin Skinner and Philip Pettit, and the adherents of the prevailing liberal notion of negative freedom, most notably Ian Carter and Matthew Kramer. The debate between these two parties concerns the question of what negative freedom is. While Carter and Kramer argue that negative freedom is simply the absence of interference, Skinner and Pettit argue that negative freedom is first and foremost the absence of arbitrary power to interfere (or, in short, domination) and only in a secondary sense also the absence of interference. In this article I argue that the republican notion of negative freedom is implausible, since it entails that situations involving only domination are as inimical to negative freedom as situations involving both domination and dominating interference; and, moreover, that Pettit and Skinner themselves find the idea that these two situations are equally inimical to negative freedom implausible.