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September 10: What is the Meaning of Liberty in 21st Century America?

While this topic was selected well before the Kavanaugh hearings began, the words “liberty” and “freedom” were used many times over the course of those hearings. So we’ll discuss, I suppose, whether we think they have the same meanings that they did to the Founders or whether the passage of time has changed the definition in some fundamental way.

Michael Sinclair has provided some good background reading links.  It took me a while to find time to read them, then I promptly became sufficiently sick and delerious that I couldn’t bring myself to draft this post.  

At any rate, here are the links he provided. The first two seem pretty good sources; the rest provide background/refresher for those of us who haven’t studied Hume or Locke for 40+ years.

  • A New York Times Op-Ed piece contrasting “freedom” vs. “liberty” (written in 2003; it’s short and an easy read).
  • An article from National Affairs magazine on “The Five Conceptions of American Liberty” and how “rights,” “lefts,” and “libertarians” emphasize subsets of the five conceptions. (Longer than the op-ed, but still relatively “accessible” in Michael’s words.)
  • An article from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the subject of “liberty,” both “positive liberty” and “negative liberty.” (I found it interesting, but it’s pretty long.)
  • Articles from the Stanford cite discussing Hume’s and Locke’s view of “liberty.”

I may not make it tomorrow morning, but it should be an “enlightening” topic.


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