Leviathan

Hobbes' Leviathan and the Birth of the Liberal Tradition

A liberal is someone who believes in the primacy of liberty as a socio-political value. Liberalism posits freedom a priori, and thus within its tradition the burden of proof rests on those who would limit or somehow restrict individual freedom. Definitions of freedom within the liberal tradition diverge into two main conceptions. Negative liberty posits that individuals are free to the extent that they can pursue separate ends without being coerced, and in the absence of interference or constraints. Those who espouse a conception of positive liberty have a somewhat stronger vision of what constitutes freedom. To these liberals, freedom constitutes acting in accordance with one’s will in such a way as to realize and actualize one’s true, human purpose. Both of these conceptions of liberty find it necessary to justify any restrictions on individual freedom. This need for justification arises most immediately in the context of any political system which exercises the authority to limit individual freedom of action. Even in the most free and fair political context there exists a mechanism in place to maintain a system of rules that regulate individual behavior. Such mechanisms include systems like consent, coercion, or physical...

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