Freedom: It is Not Always Accurate

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“The Meanings of Freedom” – Leif Wenar is an essay that responds that G.A. Cohen’s concept on “freedom” by saying that it is not always accurate. Cohen’s main claim is that the lack of money and poverty carries with it lack of freedom. In this paper, Wenar discusses the further analysis of the meanings of “freedom” as it relates to ordinary usage, interference, and what counts as unfreedom. Wenar explains that though there are different meanings of “freedom,” smooth communication occurs when the different meanings are precisely distinguished. He differentiates between the way we approach the meanings of freedom as an analyst versus a normative theorist. One important idea Wenar also points out is that while philosopher Isaiah Berlin would say that an ordinary language of meanings of “freedom” becomes “freedom itself,” Cohen would find that a specific sense of “freedom” has been pushed to the status of “freedom as such” and “freedom itself.” (p.46)

One reason why we analytically shed light on all meanings of freedom is so that we can become more aware of the complexities involved with the various associations of “freedom” in ordinary usage. However, when we look as it from a single definition, it is to focus the reader’s attention on that particular spot. The risk with this method is that it is limiting through the way it blocks out the complexities. I think that it is important to consider all options and meanings when it comes to a definition, especially when it comes to its advantages and drawbacks. This analysis becomes valuable in understanding the total picture, not leaving out any possibilities.

Wenar makes the valid point of identifying Cohen as making this particular error in his essay “Freedom and Money.” Cohen insists that the neutral conception of negative freedom is freedom itself. Cohen also dismisses, all at once, alternatives to his concept on freedom.

In the second half of the essay, Wenar goes on to determine whether or not the...
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