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Date Posted: 07:41:25 01/30/16 Sat
Author: robin
Subject: Real freedom

Real freedom is a term coined by the political philosopher and economist Philippe Van Parijs. It expands upon notions of negative freedom by incorporating not simply institutional or other constraints on a person's choices, but also the requirements of physical reality, resources and personal capacity. To have real freedom, according to Van Parjis, an individual must:

1. not be prevented from acting on their will (i.e. they must have traditional negative freedom); and
2. possess the resources or capacities actually to carry out their will.

Under this conception, a moral agent could be negatively free to take a holiday in Miami, because no-one is forcing them not to (condition 1 is met); but not really free to do so, because they cannot afford the flight (condition 2 is not met). Similarly, someone could be negatively free to swim across the English Channel; but not really free, because they are not a good enough swimmer and would not be able to succeed in the task. Real freedom is, then, a matter of degree one is more or less really free, not just either really free or not; and no-one has complete real freedom no-one is really free to teleport to Mars, for instance.

Real freedom expands on negative freedom by adding the idea of actually being able to exercise a capacity or resource in the absence of constraint; but does not go as far as some ideas of positive freedom, by refraining from appeal to self-government by a real, best, or higher self.

Van Parijs uses the concept of real freedom as part of his influential argument for a universal basic income.

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