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Steiner’s possession: as it were

Hutchinson, Anthony Philip A. (2005) Steiner’s possession: as it were. European Journal of Political Theory, 3 (3). pp. 245-265. ISSN 1474-8851

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Abstract

Since the resurgence of interest in political philosophy in the early 1970s debates about freedom have been central. Throughout this period Hillel Steiner has proposed and defended the pure negative conception of freedom. This work is complemented by Ian Carter’s recent writings on freedom. Carter and Steiner advance a non-normative (empirical) conception of freedom employing tools from contemporary philosophy of action and language. In this article I seek to offer a deflationary critique of the Carter/Steiner position. My purpose is not to deny the potential moral or political significance of a pure negative conception of freedom but rather to deflate the philosophical foundations claimed for such a conception. I show Steiner’s commitment to the pure negative conception of freedom is a substantive moral commitment, not the result of logical conclusions deemed from conceptual analysis.

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