Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Philosophy


Philosophy and Religion

First Advisor

Robert Westmoreland

Second Advisor

Steven Skultety

Third Advisor

Timothy Yenter

Relational Format



The way in which we recognize, define, and promote freedom in our society can be deeply valuable. It can lead to important political answers and help identify rights and their nature. My intention is to consider the relationships among three conceptions of freedom. I believe that discussions of freedom which are relevant to political philosophy are necessarily normative. By this I mean that I am not discussing purely descriptive concepts of freedom- instead I am speaking of freedom which can be considered desirable, for this is what truly matters. Freedom to murder, for example, is freedom in the descriptive sense but not in the normative sense. Two major concepts of liberty are positive and negative, which are often recognized as distinct and antagonistic conceptions of freedom. While I believe their distinction can be beneficial in identifying the way in which freedom should be understood, I believe that liberty should ultimately be recognized as a single concept. I argue positive and negative liberty are not antagonistic, but rather they are complementary conceptions of a single concept, which are sufficient to account for that concept so far as it is a normative concept relevant to political philosophy. My main focus is on my assertion that republican freedom is not needed as a third conception in the view of liberty which I endorse. This is not because domination is not freedom reducing, but rather because once negative and positive liberty are working together in a complementary system, there is nothing which republican freedom can bring to the table which is not already there. Further, holding republican freedom above negative and positive freedom is harmful to a conception of freedom worth embracing.



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