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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 247 of Leland Yeager’s 2001 book, Ethics as Social Science: The Moral Philosophy of Social Cooperation (citations removed; original emphasis):

Writers should make it clear, explicitly or by context, when they depart from a word’s most usual meaning.  In discussion of interpersonal relations and government actions, the central meaning of “freedom” does seem to be the negative one of absence of restraint or compulsion imposed on a person by other persons.  Even a poor, sick, miserable person may be free of such restraint or compulsion.  A mountain-climber trapped in a crevasse is physically unfree, yet not thereby stripped of his civil liberty.  A subject of a tyrannical and totalitarian ruler may be rich – not yet plundered – while possessing scant political power and personal liberty.

Personal freedom, while a great value, is not the only value.  Quite conceivably, in wretched circumstances, people might willingly trade away their freedom, if the tradeoff were genuinely available, for more food, clothing, shelter, and safety.  But it clouds thinking to define freedom as embracing these other good things.  It clouds thinking to suppose that a sacrifice of some freedom for a good reason spells no loss of freedom after all.


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