Social Science

1. What is it to be free? What does it mean to call someone or something ‘free’? What does freedom involve, and what must be in place for it to be possible? Who or what counts as free, and under what conditions? How does a subject’s freedom relate to questions of ethical obligation or moral necessity? How does freedom relate to specific social and historical forms of life and modes of organization? Has the idea of freedom been the same across various cultural, social, and historical forms of life, or has it varied?

2. How does freedom relate to right? What does it mean to call a free act ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? By what criteria do we make this judgment? Is there an objective basis for the determination of right or wrong free action? What conditions must be in place in order for it to be possible for a free act to be judged right? Does freedom necessarily imply an obligation to the right use of that freedom, or would this obligation undermine freedom?

3. Does freedom exist? Is freedom universal to all human subjects, or is it selectively distributed? If the latter, what governs that distribution? Can any subject be free if others are unfree? What would the existence of objective unfreedom mean for those subjects who have some agency? What would have to be done in order for such objective unfreedom to be overcome? Can unfree subjects do anything?

4. What forms of social organization maximally promote freedom? Do some forms of social life—including familial, governmental, economic, and racialized structures and relations—promote freedom more or less than others? How could we establish that one such mode of organization is more conducive to freedom than another? What consequences follow from a social body that is more rather than less free?

5. What is the value of freedom? Is freedom valuable in itself? For whom is freedom as a value a given? What aspects of the concept of freedom, as it has been developed and deployed in modernity, might make the very idea itself suspect? Why might the consistent application and dissemination of this notion of freedom have detrimental effects? Should such detrimental effects be accepted as necessary evils? Are there other values that should be held in higher esteem than freedom?

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