Real freedom  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Real freedom is a term coined by the political philosopher and economist Philippe Van Parijs. It expands upon notions of negative freedom by incorporating not simply institutional or other constraints on a person's choices, but also the requirements of physical reality, resources and personal capacity. To have real freedom, according to Van Parjis, an individual must:

1. not be prevented from acting on their will (i.e. they must have traditional negative freedom); and
2. possess the resources or capacities actually to carry out their will.

Under this conception, a moral agent could be negatively free to take a holiday in Miami, because no-one is forcing them not to (condition 1 is met); but not really free to do so, because they cannot afford the flight (condition 2 is not met). Similarly, someone could be negatively free to swim across the English Channel; but not really free, because they are not a good enough swimmer and would not be able to succeed in the task. Real freedom is, then, a matter of degree — one is more or less really free, not just either really free or not; and no-one has complete real freedom — no-one is really free to teleport to Mars, for instance.

Real freedom expands on negative freedom by adding the idea of actually being able to exercise a capacity or resource in the absence of constraint; but does not go as far as some ideas of positive freedom, by refraining from appeal to self-government by a real, best, or higher self.

Van Parijs uses the concept of real freedom as part of his influential argument for a universal basic income.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Real freedom" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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