Freedom in the Spirit of sen

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From his earliest research on social choice theory through to his more recent development of the idea of capability, Amartya Sen has given the idea of freedom pride of place in his thoughts. I think that his conception of freedom is of the greatest interest, and I try to bring out its distinctive character in this chapter. I shall not be discussing the notion of capability directly - nor, more generally, the place of freedom in Sen's theory of justice - although my comments have implications for how his normative position should be understood (Pettit 2001a). My analysis will focus entirely on how freedom is to be interpreted within the approach taken by Sen. I have titled this chapter ‘Freedom in the Spirit of Sen’, because I suggest some ways in which his approach can be developed that are not discussed explicitly in his work. This chapter is divided into five main sections. In the first, I present Sen's conception of freedom as having two forms, direct and indirect, and in the second I show how he associates freedom, direct and indirect, with the idea of agent control. In the third section, I introduce a further distinction, between active and virtual control, which is independent of that between direct and indirect control but ought to appeal to Sen, being of a kind with it. In the fourth section, I show where Sen's conception of freedom, articulated in line with these distinctions, leads in thinking about the nature of democratic institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmartya Sen
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780511800511
ISBN (Print)9780521852913
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

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