About us

This is a Center for Institutional Analysis and Development (CADI) - Konrad Adenauer Foundation project, developed by Vlad Tarko (coordinator) and Anca Matei. It is an experimental philosophy project focused on freedom, which is probably the most important concept in political philosophy.

We have several research goals. By taking our survey you will help us discover whether people with different political opinions understand freedom differently (as political philosophers have often claimed); whether people's intuitions about freedom are connected to what they consider to serve their personal interest; and whether people's intuitions about freedom are connected to what they consider to be the general public good. Last but not least, do people have a unitary and stable concept of freedom, or do they understand it differently, in shifting ways, depending on the situation?

The survey is the result of a comprehensive literature review, some of which is described here. By exploring this large literature base, we have discovered a significant diversity in the way freedom is understood by various authors. We have identified seven concepts of freedom that stand out in a clearly distinguishable fashion - seven distinct ways in which people talk about freedom. These concepts cover all the debates about freedom fairly well. It should be noted that, to some extent, they are a simplification. This was necessary for the purpose of creating the non-abstract scenarios in the survey.

The seven concepts are: (1) freedom from constraints (negative freedom); (2) freedom of choice - the opposite of scarcity; (3) autonomy (or psychological freedom) - the opposite of manipulation; (4) freedom under law - the opposite of being subjected to arbitrary decisions; (5) political freedom (or democracy) - the ability to determine the content of the rules to which you are subjected; (6) tolerance - the lack of a serious cost in publicly expressing one's group identity (e.g. ethnic or religious identity, gay pride etc.) and the protection received by such groups (the preservation of diversity); (7) welfare - the amount of goods and services of which one benefits.

It is often the case that in many situations these different concepts reinforce or complement each other, creating a more complex and compeling peisage. In this sense, there is no "correct" or "incorrect" understanding of freedom: liberty is a multi-faceted concept. However, this harmony does not always hold. And it is precisely when different concepts of freedom come into conflict that things start to get really interesting! Based on such trade-offs (there are 21 possible combinations) we can deduce that the different varieties of freedom actually form a hierarchy of values and it turns out that different people prioritize them differently.

Furthermore, we can see that these seven different concepts of freedom are used to inform and structure the approach to three fundamental social dilemmas: the question about the correct relationship between individual and society, the question about the wisdom of producing some benefits by coercive and restrictive means, and the question about how flexible our rules should be.

The project also benefited from the help of Oana Borș, Anamaria Chiş, Sorin Cucerai, Alina Dănilă, Andrei Dumitru, Luciana Marsu, Cristian Pătrăşconiu, Anca Rujoiu, Ionut Sterpan, Andrei Trandafira, and Andrei Vlăducu.

: vlad.tarko@cadi.ro

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"I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men's, acts of will. I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside." Isaiah Berlin
Individual vs. Community

When individual freedom comes in conflict with the goal of promoting the identity or security of the group, what would you choose?

How people responded so far:

Negative vs. Positive

If by imposing some restrictions upon everybody, people's average number of choices, welfare or autonomy increases, could we say that freedom has increased?

How people responded so far:

Procedures vs. Outcomes

Do we have more freedom when people stick to the right procedures even when they could obtain momentary advantages by avoiding the rules, or when they have a flexible attitude towards rule following?

How people responded so far:

more results