Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 1, No 1 (2005)

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The Bull in the China Shop: A Discussion of an Ambiguity Within Pettit’s Theory of Freedom as Discursive Control (Philip Pettit, A Theory of Freedom: From the Psychology to the Politics of Agency)

Steven J Youngblood


In Philip Pettit’s “A Theory of Freedom”, Pettit claims that being free to do something is being held responsible for what we do; so whatever theory of freedom we develop must allow the agent to be held responsible for the free actions that they do. In this paper I am going to examine Pettit’s claim about what a satisfactory theory of freedom would require, and discuss several ambiguities within the theory. However, within this reading two major interpretations may be taken: the first of which suggests that freedom can only be freedom when there is a moral ‘ought’ involved; the second is a more generous reading in which freedom includes all realms of responsibility.

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