Whereas earlier forms of political thought emphasized “the idea of a natural order discernible by reason to which human beings ought to conform,” modern political thought “begins, ends, and is animated throughout by the idea of freedom” (Franco 1999, 2) – a fact that is aptly demonstrated by the sheer number and variety of political ideologies that acknowledge it as a core concept. Notwithstanding this “near unanimity on … the centrality of freedom in understanding political life” (ibid.), political ideologies disagree sharply over the meaning of the concept as well as “its measurement, distribution, and institutional requirements” (Kukathas 2012, 685). At particular issue are the following questions:

First, what is the ontological status of freedom? In other words, what kind of thing is the concept of freedom a conception of?

Second, who or what is free? In other words, to whom or what does the concept of freedom apply?

And third, is freedom valuable as an end in itself or merely as a means to achieving other valuable ends?