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Harry Frankfurt (1982) presents an insightful and original way ofthinking about free will. He suggests that a central differencebetween human and merely animal activity is our capacity to reflect onour desires and beliefs and form desires and judgments concerningthem. I may want to eat a candy bar (first-order desire), but I alsomay want not to want this (second-order desire) because ofthe connection between habitual candy eating and poor health. Thisdifference, he argues, provides the key to understanding both freeaction and free will. (These are quite different, in Frankfurt's view,with free will being the more demanding notion. Moreover, moralresponsibility for an action requires only that the agent actedfreely, not that the action proceeded from a free will.)

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Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded

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The definition of freedom as a triadic relation was first put forwardin the seminal work of Felix Oppenheim in the 1950s and 60s. Oppenheimsaw that an important meaning of ‘freedom’ in the contextof political and social philosophy was as a relation between twoagents and a particular (impeded or unimpeded) action. Thisinterpretation of freedom remained, however, what Berlin would call anegative one. What MacCallum did was to generalize this triadicstructure so that it would cover all possible claims about freedom,whether of the negative or the positive variety. In MacCallum'sframework, unlike in Oppenheim's, the interpretation of each of thethree variables is left open. In other words, MacCallum's position isa meta-theoretical one: his is a theory about the differences betweentheorists of freedom.

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Thus, those whom Berlin places in the negative camp typically conceiveof the agent as having the same extension as that which it isgenerally given in ordinary discourse: they tend to think of the agentas an individual human being and as including all of the empiricalbeliefs and desires of that individual. Those in the so-calledpositive camp, on the other hand, often depart from the ordinarynotion, in one sense imagining the agent as more extensive than in theordinary notion, and in another sense imagining it as less extensive:they think of the agent as having a greater extension than in ordinarydiscourse in cases where they identify the agent's true desires andaims with those of some collectivity of which she is a member; andthey think of the agent as having a lesser extension than in ordinarydiscourse in cases where they identify the true agent with only asubset of her empirical beliefs and desires — i.e., with thosethat are rational, authentic or virtuous. Secondly, those in Berlin'spositive camp tend to take a wider view of what counts as a constrainton freedom than those in his negative camp: the set of relevantobstacles is more extensive for the former than for the latter, sincenegative theorists tend to count only external obstacles asconstraints on freedom, whereas positive theorists also allow that onemay be constrained by internal factors, such as irrational desires,fears or ignorance. And thirdly, those in Berlin's positive camp tendto take a narrower view of what counts as a purpose one can be free tofulfill. The set of relevant purposes is less extensive for them thanfor the negative theorists, for we have seen that they tend torestrict the relevant set of actions or states to those that arerational, authentic or virtuous, whereas those in the negative camptend to extend this variable so as to cover any action or state theagent might desire.

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What perhaps remains of the distinction is a rough categorization ofthe various interpretations of freedom that serves to indicate theirdegree of fit with the classical liberal tradition. There is indeed acertain family resemblance between the conceptions that are normallyseen as falling on one or the other side of Berlin's divide, and oneof the decisive factors in determining this family resemblance is thetheorist's degree of concern with the notion of the self. Those on the‘positive’ side see questions about the nature and sourcesof a person's beliefs, desires and values as relevant in determiningthat person's freedom, whereas those on the ‘negative’side, being more faithful to the classical liberal tradition, tend toconsider the raising of such questions as in some way indicating apropensity to violate the agent's dignity or integrity (Carter 2011a).One side takes a positive interest in the agent's beliefs, desires andvalues, while the other recommends that we avoid doing so.

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It might be claimed that MacCallum's framework is less than whollyinclusive of the various possible conceptions of freedom. Inparticular, it might be said, the concept of self-mastery orself-direction implies a presence of control that is not captured byMacCallum's explication of freedom as a triadic relation. MacCallum'striadic relation indicates mere possibilities. If one thinksof freedom as involving self-direction, on the other hand, one has inmind an exercise-concept of freedom as opposed to anopportunity-concept (this distinction comes from C. Taylor 1979). Ifinterpreted as an exercise concept, freedom consists not merely in thepossibility of doing certain things (i.e. in the lack ofconstraints on doing them), but in actually doing certainthings in certain ways — for example, in realizing one's trueself or in acting on the basis of rational and well-informeddecisions. The idea of freedom as the absence of constraints on therealization of given ends might be criticised as failing to capturethis exercise concept of freedom, for the latter concept makes noreference to the absence of constraints.

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MacCallum's framework is particularly well suited to the clarificationof such issues. For this reason, theorists working on the measurementof freedom tend not to refer a great deal to the distinction betweenpositive and negative freedom. This said, most of them are concernedwith freedom understood as the availability of options. And the notionof freedom as the availability of options is unequivocally negative inBerlin's sense at least where two conditions are met: first, thesource of unfreedom-creating constraints is limited to the actions ofother agents, so that natural or self-inflicted obstacles are not seenas decreasing an agent's freedom; second, the actions one is free orunfree to perform are weighted in some value-neutral way, so that oneis not seen as freer simply because the options available to one aremore valuable or conducive to one's self-realization. Of theabove-mentioned authors, only Steiner embraces both conditionsexplicitly. Sen rejects both of them, despite not endorsing anythinglike positive freedom in Berlin's sense.