11th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Intropi

Pietro Intropi

Bivalence, Trivalence, Liberal and Republican Freedom 

Contemporary republican theorists (among whom prominently Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner) interpret freedom in terms of non-domination, as the lack of subjugation to arbitrary/alien power, in opposition to the ideal of negative freedom (the absence of the relevant obstacles) favoured by liberals (in particular, Ian Carter, Matthew Kramer and Hillel Steiner). In this essay, focusing on the works of Philip Pettit, I aim to contribute to the liberal/republican freedom debate by attempting to challenge the validity of an analogy that Pettit has drawn in a recent article (Pettit 2011) between the “anti-adaptation” objection to desire-based conceptions of freedom, and the “anti-ingratiation” objection that republicans level against the pure negative conception of freedom endorsed by Carter, Kramer and Steiner. I argue that, while the anti-adaptation objection, and other arguments which share a parallel structure, are designed to target trivalent interpretations of freedom, the anti-ingratiation objection, if interpreted as having the same structure as the anti-adaptation objection, does not succeed in the critique to the pure negative conception of freedom, given that pure negative freedom is not per se committed neither to a bivalent nor to a trivalent interpretation of the concept (section 2). The argumentative line I attempt to develop in this essay draws on an analysis (section 1) of the concepts of bivalence/trivalence applied to freedom. Basing my analysis on Pettit’s and pure negative freedom theorists’ works, I argue, in particular, that the bivalence/trivalence conceptual couple should be interpreted in terms of a complex relation between the y variable (the constraints on freedom) and the z variable (the dominion of the actions/becomings) of Mac Callum’s formula.