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Hobbes's Theories of Freedom

David van Mill
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 57, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 443-459
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2960315
Page Count: 17
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Hobbes's Theories of Freedom
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Abstract

Hobbes seems to provide a logically coherent concept of liberty. He tells us that agents are free to the extent they are unimpeded by external obstacles. It is not surprising, therefore, that most commentators have seen Hobbes as the primary theorist of what I call "pure" negative freedom. I argue, however, that his theory of freedom tends to be considerably more complicated than usually thought. Hobbes actually discusses a great many other conditions of freedom besides the absence of external impediments. Once we examine his argument carefully, we find a rich, although sometimes confused, view of freedom. I claim that Hobbes actually uses the term freedom in several ways which sometimes complement one another and which sometimes lead Hobbes to contradictory positions. In this article I identify the extent to which Hobbes is consistent in his different usages of the term freedom and how it relates to such concepts as causality, fear, obligation, endeavor, punishment, and the laws and right of nature.

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