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Freedom ( Latin libertas ) is generally considered the possibility understood without forced to choose between different options and decide to. In modern philosophy , theology and law, the term generally designates a state of autonomy of a subject .


The philosophical concept of freedom is not only constantly under discussion and therefore in constant change, but also includes psychological, social, cultural, religious, political and legal dimensions and is therefore one of the central concepts in the history of human ideas .

Word origin

The word “freedom” is formed as an abstract to the adjective “free”, which is derived from the Indo-European root noun (ig.) * Per (e) i- “near, at” (= “that which is with me”, the personal Property). According to etymological assumptions, it got its current meaning from the Germanic * frī-halsa = "someone who owns his neck", who can therefore dispose of himself. Also from the Indo-European root it can be deduced that someone who is free belongs to a community of people close to each other and equals, between whom there is a peaceful state and who jointly defend this inner peace against attacks by third parties. Thus, “freedom” as a legal status would always be relative to a group and to the areas in which this normative rule is exercised.


Numerous aspects can be distinguished from the fundamental concept of freedom and treated separately. For philosophical and political debates, the distinction or non-distinction is often a problem or a deliberately employed strategy. The freedom to decide for or against an action and its restriction by rules and by decisions, claims, interests or actions of others are narrow connected with the question of the legitimacy of one's own actions and of restricting the actions of others.

Want and act

In Western legal tradition, the concept of freedom of action is central: a person's action is considered free if it corresponds to the will of that person. The freedom of action can be restricted or abolished by external circumstances such as coercion by others. However, it can also be impaired by internal circumstances that lie within the acting person, such as physical paralysis or mental illness. Legal problems arise when a person has “ natural will ” but there is reason to believe that it differs from the presumed “free” will that they would have without the disorder because of a mental disorder.

The question of whether the human will is in principle free or determined by nature as a causal event is the subject of the long-standing philosophical debate about free will (see history of free will and practical freedom ). In doing so, the external nature, the natural interests of the actors and the wishes and intentions evoked by targeted or untargeted influencing are placed in different relationships to actual action. On the one hand, the question is examined whether human volition and action are wholly or partially predetermined by natural law, and thus heteronomous , or whether they are spontaneous or autonomous . On the other hand, the question of responsibility for action is particularly important. These two questions, whether the will determines action or can only determine it, and under what conditions a person is ethically responsible, are increasingly being dealt with independently of one another.

Freedom in the community

Also of legal, political and philosophical importance is the distinction between positive and negative freedom , which only partially coincides with the distinction between internal and external restrictions on freedom of action. Above all, it is charged with social philosophy. The distinction can already be found in Aristotle , but through the tradition of Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant it has also become a central element of liberalism in the 20th century, whose main concerns are political self-determination, protection of the individual and freedom of economic activity (as a prerequisite for a general increase in prosperity and a resulting expanded ability to act). Negative freedom (freedom from something) denotes a state in which no constraints from government, society or other people make behavior difficult or prevent; Positive freedom (freedom to do something) describes the possibility of self-realization, especially of the democratic self-government of a community. Some social knowledge theorists , such as Ralf Dahrendorf, reject these notions of freedom and instead advocate the concept of a single social freedom . This is defined as the absence of external social restrictions and the existence of at least a necessary minimum of social action resources.

Positive and negative freedom

In general, there is also a civil-legal distinction between positive and negative freedom. Positive freedom (not to be confused with positivism ) means freedom to do something, for example the right of the citizen to freedom of movement or freedom of expression. Negative freedom, on the other hand, describes freedom from something, e.g. from state intervention in the personal or artistic area. Jan Schapp gives the “popular” distinction between positive and negative freedom a legally manageable meaning in view of a discussion that was previously controversial.

Other aspects

Individual and collective freedom
Freedoms of individuals (e.g. freedom of expression , freedom of the press) and the freedom of a collective (e.g. a country from an occupying power ).
Inner and outer freedom
While external freedom is a social variable and encompasses legal, social and political circumstances, internal freedom describes a state in which the human being uses his own "internal" possibilities and dispositions available to him and thereby also from internal constraints such as drives , expectations, Habits , role models , conventions , morals, etc. Ä. is free and instead chooses rationally ( sovereignty ). The key to inner freedom today is primarily upbringing and education .
Personal freedom, sovereign freedom and civil freedom
Personal (negative) freedom means that someone is not under coercion, is not restricted or determined in his actions by others; sovereign (positive) freedom means to act according to free will and thus to be able to exercise power over oneself and over others; civil liberty means participation in socio-political power.

Highlights of the history of ideas of freedom


The symbol of the Attic democracy , the Acropolis in Athens, in the sunset

For the Greco-Roman antiquity , freedom ( libertas ) was not a good for all people, but a privilege of the educated and the upper classes, who faced the unfree slaves and subject foreign peoples. Only the Stoa developed a very extensive understanding of freedom, in that it was the first to condemn slavery in a historically comprehensible manner, which was more philosophical and related to the individual, but not politically. Freedom was above all individual freedom from the constraints of the world. Nevertheless, the development of democracy in classical Athens represents a major cultural break and a milestone in historical and political development.

In contrast, the people of Israel made liberation from slavery and foreign domination a political issue very early on . If the liberation from Egypt was commemorated in the Passover festival , then it contained both a criticism of all unbridled exercise of power and the fundamental recognition of freedom as a fundamental political right for all members of the people. In spite of this, slaves were kept in Israel - just as in other ancient high cultures.

Young Christianity took over the ideas of Judaism on the subject of freedom, but eschatologized it, i. H. made into a category of the "future world". The term freedom (Eleutheria) in the New Testament primarily describes a religious quality. In view of the forthcoming parousia (return) of their risen Lord Jesus Christ , any political change in the world initially seemed pointless. It was more a matter of becoming “inwardly” free from the constraints of the declining world in the stoic-Hellenistic sense. The apostle Paul formulated the Stoic understanding of freedom in a Christian way, that the Christian is free from law, sin and death in the religious sense (Romans, chapters 6–8). The sentence from Paul's letter to the Galatians should also be understood in this “inner” sense , stating that all people in Christ are equal and thus free (Gal 3, 26-28): “Christ has set us free for freedom, so… let yourselves not bring them back under a yoke of bondage ”. (Gal 5,1)

Since true freedom can only be found in faith in Jesus Christ (cf.Jn 8, 32, 8.34 and 8.36), Paul advised Christian slaves not to defend themselves against (Christian) masters (I Cor. 7 , 21-24). In Philemon's letter , however, Paul asked a Christian slave owner to baptize his slave Onesimus as a Christian and to release him into freedom as a brother in faith (Phlm 11).

middle Ages

As in ancient times, large parts of the population were owned by other people as slaves or serfs in the Middle Ages . Due to the high volume of work in agriculture, owners were mostly large landowners and thus regularly aristocrats. Based on this social reality, freedom was understood either as the freedom of a master, i.e. the absence of slavery / serfdom, or as the master's freedom, as the freedom to be able to own slaves / serfs. Already in the Middle Ages, different ideas were developing about whose freedoms could go how far. The central document is the Magna Carta Libertatum.

Eike von Repgow (d. 1233) protested against slavery and with reference to his intellect in his Sachsenspiegel with the words: “When you first ruled, there was no servant and all people were free people ... I can not even with my understanding believe it to be the truth that someone should be the property of another person ”.

On the border between the late Middle Ages and the modern age, Martin Luther wrote the memorandum On the freedom of a Christian , which assigns the Christian a position between servant and master: In Christ all people are free, but this freedom is through love or responsibility for bound to fellow men. Friedrich Schiller also gave expression to the idea of ​​freedom in his works on freedom fighters of the late Middle Ages, for example in Wilhelm Tell and The Robbers .


John Locke
Immanuel Kant
John Stuart Mill

The concept of freedom on which today's understanding is based was developed in the Age of Enlightenment . The Enlightenment includes an intellectual aspect, namely the liberation from traditional dogmas and prejudices . According to Kant, this means the “exit of man from his self-inflicted immaturity”.

The political aspect demands the liberation of people from the premodern social structure. It aims above all at a separation of state and church , a limitation of the state through basic rights , a control of the state authority through separation of powers and the replacement of the legitimation of the state authority through the divine right through a connection to the interests of the individual people ultimately through democracy .

John Locke (1632–1704) postulated life, liberty and property as inalienable rights of the citizen. In Two Treatises of Government (1690) he declares the state of nature to be the "state of complete freedom to direct one's actions within the limits of natural law and to dispose of one's property and one's person as it seems best - without anyone's permission and without being dependent on the will of another. "

Voltaire (1694–1778) is said to have said a saying that names the principle of freedom of expression :

"I disagree, but I will fight so that you can express your opinion."

After the concept of freedom of Immanuel Kant freedom is only by reason possible. Without reason, man follows his instincts like an animal. By virtue of reason, man is able to recognize what is good and to dutifully align his own behavior with it (see: categorical imperative ). Since, according to Kant, only the person who consciously acts in accordance with his duties, i.e. who behaves morally, is free, "free action" and "moral action" are synonymous with Kant, as are free will and good will. Kant's concept of freedom turns freedom and duty into synonyms. Only the dutiful decision is also a free decision and vice versa. Kant's concept of freedom thus completely excludes pure pleasure decisions from the concept of freedom. The freedom to do what you want is exactly the opposite of doing what you feel like doing, because lust prevents people from developing their own freedom. In addition, according to Kant, the concept of freedom does not require any freedom of choice, because it does not matter that there are different options to choose from. Even if there is only one option for action, the person is free as long as he has recognized the perception of this option as correct (good) by means of his reason. Despite this radicalism, which Kant's contemporaries in particular found not to be intuitively comprehensible, the Kantian definition of freedom is likely to be the most successful, because most effective, definition of the concept of freedom in terms of the history of ideas. She has u. a. Found in all major codifications of the 19th century. It is crucial that the person is fully responsible to behave in accordance with his duties, but that no one else is able to set this duty, because only the individual can decide what he himself recognizes and recognizes as good as the force of his own reason.

“Nobody can force me to be happy in his own way (as he thinks the wellbeing of other people), but everyone can seek his happiness on the path that he himself thinks good, if only he pursues the freedom of others to pursue a similar purpose which can coexist with the freedom of everyone according to a possible general law (ie this right of the other) does not detract from it. "

- Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 290

System of natural liberty ( English system of natural freedom ): This simple system is one of Adam Smith (1723-1790) proposed social order ( "obvious and simple system of natural liberty"). His theories about the invisible hand of the market ("invisible hand") are considered the spiritual basis of the free market economy .

19th and 20th centuries

Freedom, equality, fraternity (French: liberté, égalité, fraternité) were the ideals of the French Revolution . In the Declaration of Human and Citizens' Rights of 1789, divine right was abolished and sovereignty in the state passed to the people.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel described “freedom” as a phase without coercion (in this respect roughly corresponding to the term negative freedom), but under “insight into necessity ”. The insight into necessity demanded by Hegel does not mean subordination to an externally defined, in particular an authoritarian necessity, which one only needs to understand. The required insight into necessity has an inner and an outer perspective. The inner perspective says that freedom does not mean to be scientifically undetermined as a person, but to become aware of the nature of the determination with reason, also in Kant's sense. The more a person understands how he thinks and acts himself and ultimately functions, the sooner he can free himself from the undesired types of determination and then let the desired ones exist on the basis of a free decision. In this inner perspective, Hegel resembles the determinists, for whom human determinism is not a limit, but a prerequisite for freedom. With Hegel, however, there is also the much criticized external perspective, which is often misused by authoritarian regimes, according to which the limitation of worldly possibilities does not constitute a restriction of freedom. Rather, the worldly necessities are given and freedom develops from the outset only within these conditions. In this external perspective, Hegel's approach is similar to that of the existentialists, even if they understand the spiritual overcoming of the given situation as an expression of freedom. In the philosophy of dialectical materialism founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels , the Hegelian concept of freedom is adopted in the sense of the insight into necessity . The realm of necessity , which according to Marx includes human labor , for example , experiences its dialectical abolition in the communist utopia, a desirable realm of freedom .

In his best-known book "On Liberty", the British philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill sets the limit

“That the only reason humanity, individually or united, is empowered to interfere with the freedom of action of one of its members: to protect itself. That the only purpose for which one may lawfully use coercion against the will of a member of a civilized society: to prevent harm to others. "

The mill limit is still valid today, especially in the Anglo-Saxon-speaking area, as a principle of liberalism .

US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formulated the four freedoms in his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941 , to tell US citizens why they were during World War II , which at that time was a local event in Europe for the USA To take a position against Hitler's Germany. Civil liberties and characteristics of state independence are linked:

"Freedom of speech, freedom to worship God in your own way, freedom from want as a form of international economic understanding, global disarmament."

In existentialism man is considered to be absolutely free. Pointedly, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus separately formulated that man is condemned to freedom. This view is based on the fact that obstructive circumstances are taken for granted, so that they do not have a quality that restricts freedom. This applies regardless of whether the obstacles are viewed as natural, social or conditioned by natural laws. As an example, a mountain will only be seen as an obstacle if the person has previously defined free passage as normal, which is not the case or is only a human settlement. Likewise, a person locked in a tower can still freely plan his escape, even if he fails, because failure does not limit freedom, but is part of human existence and thus his freedom. What is special about human freedom is that he has the choice of mentally submitting to the circumstances or stepping beyond them within the framework of the always limited human possibilities. Since nobody, not even the prisoner in the tower, ultimately has to come to terms with the given circumstances, the person remains free. Freedom then necessarily means to suffer from the given circumstances with which a person is just not ready to come to terms.

According to Friedrich Hayek's definition , freedom is a “state in which a person is not subjected to the arbitrary compulsion by the will of another or another”.

In Temptations of Unfreedom, Ralf Dahrendorf designed the concept of independent, purposeful thinking based on freedom.

With reference to the free market economy, Niklas Luhmann points to a connection between freedom and perception: Freedom can also be understood “as the unrecognizable cause of restrictions on freedom”.

Freedom as a principle of the constitutional social order

In many states, various forms of freedom enjoy the legal status of basic rights , especially in the form of freedom rights .

In the sense of Immanuel Kant , the legal order and thus also the state order should be a system of reasonable order of freedom.

The concept of freedom is most frequently used today in the area of ​​political freedom. This describes the rights of the citizen to participate in the democratic discourse and to bring his will into the political decision-making process in a democratic way. Political freedom includes active and passive suffrage, ie the right to participate in free elections as a voter and person who can be elected, as well as "political" basic rights, in particular through freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to participate in the "pre-formation" of democratic decision-making.

The constitution of a state through a free democratic basic order means that it, especially the state authority, is traced back to the political freedom of the citizens. In addition, the free democratic basic order stands for a society in which certain freedoms, such as human dignity and the right to life, cannot be given up voluntarily among private individuals.

In essence, a free state order is guaranteed by the rule of law (in particular by fundamental rights) and by democracy and a market economy . In the realization of such a free democratic order and the creation of a is often civil society or civil society seen.

The legitimacy of free democracy is traditionally justified in two ways: as a principle that either serves the well-being of the people or recognizes and presupposes it. While the former is assigned to the Anglo-American school, the latter is considered to be continental European. Despite this classification, no political system today represents a pure form of one of these schools.

Going back to Adam Smith , freedom as a principle of order does not require any altruism on the part of the people to be liberated. The baker should not provide his rolls out of altruism, but out of selfish pursuit of profit. This pursuit of profit should now lead to the baker making an effort to optimally adapt to the needs of his customers / potential customers brought to him. Freedom as a social order principle should therefore promote good behavior regardless of the moral integrity of the people involved. In the long run, positive behaviors should be perpetuated and general morality should be promoted.

The continental European perspective, on the other hand, emphasizes that freedoms can also be abused to the detriment of third parties. Nevertheless, this school also grants the individual extensive rights of freedom . This is justified by the fact that people are essentially good and that they will therefore regularly use the freedoms they have been granted for good. However, in contrast to the Anglo-American point of view, the state here has the task of watching over the consequences of the use of freedom, of preventing harmful use of freedom and of mitigating or eliminating the undesired consequences of using freedom.

The strength of the Anglo-American approach is that empirical examples of the abuse of freedom do not lead to a negation of the principle of freedom. The role of the USA as a liberal guarantee power in the 20th century corresponds to this theoretical strength .

The strength of the continental European approach, on the other hand, lies in the fact that, despite the liberal basic approach, grievances are not only accessible to self-regulation, but also to active state intervention and thus often more rapid remedial action. This theoretical strength is matched by social security, a tighter market economy framework and the comparatively higher spending on development cooperation in the continental European countries.

Freedom as a principle of the economic order

If economic freedom is the underlying principle of an economic order, it is called a free market economy . In a market economy, supply and demand basically meet “freely” without state control. The price acts as a controlling element for the development of supply and demand , which in turn is formed according to the existing supply and demand. Features of the free market are private property , freedom of contract , freedom of trade , consumer freedom , free choice of employment, free access to the market and free competition .

The market freedom of the market participant corresponds to his responsibility in the free market economy . Accountability means that the market participants on the one hand in the case of success , the resulting action of the gain as a personal profit and on the other hand, in the case of failure , the adhesion for by the free behavior caused damage be assigned.

In the area of ​​market freedom in particular, it becomes apparent that freedom, once it exists, is not a condition that can easily be sustained. In a free market in the sense of complete state restraint , companies can strive for a dominant position up to a monopoly out of free competition . The aim of such a dominant position is regularly to limit or even eliminate the free market in the sense of competition for the purpose of profit maximization. The core element of the social market economy is therefore the protection of the market from its own results, in particular through state antitrust law . In addition, it is part of the social market economy for the state to intervene regulatively where free market behavior would not be adequately liable in the event of failure.

Fundamental rights as guaranteed freedom

The term freedom is not explicitly defined in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany . The constitution does not commit the citizen to a theory of freedom, as it was often treated differently in philosophy, for example in the Enlightenment (see Chapter 4). Rather, what freedom is has become a bouquet of many freedoms in the constitution in the form of basic rights. Rights are freedoms. Basic rights are considered to be cases of free development of personality (in the sense of Art. 2 I GG). In this way, the doctrine of freedom is directly addressed in the Basic Law. Our constitution cannot be understood without a double concept of freedom: the freedom of fundamental rights must be restricted by legislation, the exercise of which, following Kant himself, can again be understood as freedom. The freedom of the basic rights itself is twofold in the aforementioned sense: In the basic right, the individual's discretion is limited by the institution within which this discretion can be exercised. Private autonomy is limited by public autonomy.

Citizens of democratically constituted states regularly enjoy constitutionally guaranteed freedom in the form of basic rights (also civil rights , human rights ). The fundamental rights guarantee a core area in which the state is not allowed to intervene and which must also be regularly observed and respected between private individuals. In addition to some equality rights, fundamental rights primarily guarantee freedoms.

Essential fundamental freedoms are the general freedom of action , the general freedom of contract , the right to life and physical integrity, the freedom of religion , this also includes freedom of belief and conscience, freedom of opinion , the protection of marriage and family , freedom of the press , freedom of art , the academic freedom , the freedom of association , the freedom of assembly , the posts and telecommunications and informational self-determination , the general freedom of movement , the freedom of occupation , the property protection including the testamentary freedom , inviolability of the home and the right to asylum .

Within the framework of the human dignity guaranteed by Article 1 I GG , in addition to the aforementioned basic rights, the right of the citizen - his freedom - to political co-determination (Article 1 I GG, elaborated in Article 20 I, II GG). The focus is on the right to establish the legislature through elections and thereby participate in the legislative process. Historically, the right to political participation is the fourth human right alongside life, freedom and property.

By virtue of the basic rights, the individual is assigned an independent position vis-à-vis the state community, which he can enforce under the rule of law and by virtue of which he should in principle be able to determine his own life, to shape it according to his own ideas and also to participate in this to connect others in order to have a significant influence on the development of society as a whole.

Legally, the concept of fundamental rights is recognized worldwide through the Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by most of the world's states ; However, the actual implementation is by no means guaranteed consistently and is never completely guaranteed even in democratically developed countries.

Freedom and other values

Individual freedom as self-determination is naturally related to and in tension with other values .

There is a classic tension between freedom on the one hand and security or public order on the other. On the one hand, freedom and security are mutually dependent. Only a person who has a sufficient level of security can also behave freely. Conversely, only a free person can freely maintain the living conditions that appear necessary and important to him, which also include security. On the other hand, freedom and security can also come into conflict with one another if z. B. the granted freedom of one leads to the endangerment of the security of the other. A stable public order is fundamentally beneficial to freedom. However, the measures required for this can in turn result in severe restrictions on freedom (surveillance, censorship). It is therefore important to limit the interference with freedom to the necessary extent and to measure the necessity by whether the result is a general gain in freedom. Benjamin Franklin has declared as a political maxim for dealing with the tension: "If you give up freedom in order to gain security, you will lose both in the end."

Today, there is sometimes a tension between freedom on the one hand and greater material equality that is perceived as just on the other. This tension was already circumscribed in the French Revolution by the triad of demands of “ freedom, equality, brotherhood ”. While equality there initially only referred to equality before the law , later and today in the general debate greater material equality was named as the central value concept . Equal opportunities can be distinguished from the desired equal distribution of goods. Both are in different tensions with freedom, for example in relation to the enjoyment of property or in relation to the possibility of achieving social recognition through merit. While liberal forces see a state task only in the creation of equal opportunities, socialist or social democratic forces also cite greater equality of results as a goal to be striven for and ultimately also as a state task.

Concepts of political ideologies

Into the Jaws of Death : D-Day , June 6, 1944 - Contribution to the liberation of Europe from fascism

Freedom is one of the most important, complex and momentous political-philosophical terms of the modern age. Since hardly any social, political or moral-philosophical current can do without professing a general commitment to freedom, the different objectives require differently defined concepts of freedom and different classifications of the concept of freedom.

The liberalism emphasized individual freedom. Classic topics of liberalism are therefore human rights , which are demanded and defended in the form of constitutional basic rights . In liberalism, collective freedom is regularly traced back to the individual and finds its origin in contractual freedom . He thus sets freedom in opposition to collectivism . This is how economic liberalism is justified.

The anarchism lamented a lack of freedom due to existing power and authority structures. He categorically rejects any form of rule, including those that are democratic or welfare-oriented. Self-determination and self-realization , which anarchism strives for, should enable freedom without a rule-bound regulatory framework.

Classical conservatism sees human freedom as limited by human determination, morality and higher powers (such as God). Individual modern forms of conservatism, on the other hand, often stick to traditional liberal basic convictions, so that in the area of ​​modern conservatism a wide spectrum has developed between the advocacy of freedom and freedom skepticism. In particular, different weightings of freedom, justice and solidarity from a conservative point of view are made by the individual currents.

The Socialism and Communism seeks the freedom of the working class from the mechanisms and consequences, especially exploitation and oppression of the capitalist mode of production. Marx saw in the capitalist mode of production the replacement of personal freedoms by the freedom of trade; exchange value takes the place of personal dignity. “Only when the real individual person takes the abstract citizen back into himself and has become a species being as an individual person in his empirical life, in his individual work , in his individual relationships, only when the person recognizes and organizes his 'forces propres' as social forces and therefore no longer separates the social force from itself in the form of political force, only then is human emancipation achieved. ”The Marxian principle that“ the free development of everyone is the condition for the development of all ”was learned in the Real socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe often its opposite. Freedoms were granted when they did not leave the discourse of the given political and social system.

The nationalism knows especially the freedom of their own people , some from foreign domination or self-determination .

In totalitarianism (also fascism , National Socialism , Stalinism ), the individual has to subordinate himself to the people as a whole or to the will of the “ Führer ”. Totalitarian systems are characterized by the fact that they fundamentally reject individual freedom or only grant it within the framework of a function that serves the totalitarian goal.

Determining the limits of freedom

Hubert Maurer : Odysseus and Circe - Odysseus has been an archetype of a free person in the bourgeois sense since Horkheimer and Adorno at the latest

Based on the mill limit, according to which the use of freedom is to be limited where there is harm to third parties, the theoretical question arises as to how this limit is to be determined. The mill limit is still the basis of liberalism, especially in Anglo-American countries.

Not all harm is sufficient to justify a restriction of freedom . The damage must in turn meet three criteria in order to justify a restriction of the underlying use of freedom. First, the damage must go beyond a certain annoyance , second, there must be no predominant justifying reasons for the damage , and third, the damage must also occur with a sufficient probability that justifies the specific restriction .

If every annoyance were enough as damage, even simple activities of freedom would no longer be possible, because someone else can be bothered by practically any behavior, even by the softly spoken polite but audible word, on a walk in the open field or on certain clothing in public visible to wear. In this sense, damage can only be assumed where another person is significantly disturbed in his own use of freedom.

In addition, the benefit promised by a specific use of freedom must be adequately taken into account or weighed up when the question of whether a restriction claim directed against this is justified . It can be seen as an appropriate, unrestricted use of freedom, for example, to operate an airport with noise emissions, although an equally large and equally regular noise emission at the same location would not be permitted for private parties. The difference lies in the fact that an airport operation affects the freedom of third parties from disturbing noise just as much as permanent private large parties, but the public benefit of airport operations can be estimated so high that even an increased level of disruption may not justify a restriction of freedom in the form of a flight ban.

Ultimately, a restriction of freedom requires that the feared damage will occur with a sufficient probability . Basically it follows from the chaos theory that every human behavior can also set in motion an unmanageable causal chain, which in turn can trigger undesirable restrictions on the freedom of third parties. For a restriction of freedom to be justified, the restriction of freedom does not have to be regarded as a certain event in the case of the third party, but it must be so likely that the very possibility of this occurrence cannot be justified. Whether a behavior is to be restricted depends, in particular, on the probability with which a behavior triggers specific damage.

Without these three additions to the mill limit (relevance, lack of justification, probability), free human behavior would theoretically never be permissible. Conversely, all three additions are dependent on value judgments . Which injuries are viewed as significant, which benefit or potential benefit should be sufficient as a justification and how much risk is acceptable, or, conversely, from what probability of realization a behavior prone to harm should no longer be accepted, will be answered differently in different times by different societies be. Factors here are, for example, the general risk appetite of a society, the subjective-emotional assessment of certain risks, the familiarization with certain hazardous situations and the normative assessment of certain protected interests or certain justifying benefits.

The normative stipulations for the justification of restrictions of freedom can therefore not be defined in an abstract and absolute manner, but must be determined specifically in individual cases. This provision is in turn subject to certain legislative procedures in democracies . The theoretical problem of determining the limits of freedom through democratic procedures is that individual freedom according to the mill limit is in itself worthy of protection and should therefore not be dependent on a grant by a democratic majority. The obligation to give reasons therefore remains with those who want to restrict a certain use of freedom, even with democratic legitimation.

This view has largely established itself in the constitutional reality of Western democracies and has resulted in majority decisions being subject to a (constitutional) jurisdiction based on civil liberties (such as the Supreme Court or the ECJ ).

One topic that has received little attention so far is the confrontation of freedom with the issue of physical disability . As a disabled person, you often already have the dictatorship within you, as Carsten Dethlefs notes in his book Critique of Practical Freedom . It is dictatorship that certain physical restrictions impose on the individual. At the same time, technical progress can expand these limits today, which makes the subject of disabilities easier to deal with. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities , which Germany ratified in 2009, also assumes that it is no longer the disability per se that restricts people, but an environment that is not barrier-free in all areas.

Freedom index

The freedom index is a measure that is intended to help describe the entirety or part of the individual or collective political, civil or economic freedoms of a country and is usually formed on the basis of data collections. The indices are linked to ratings. B. be arranged according to their economic or political freedom or more specifically, for example, according to the degree of their market opening.


Economic freedom
Political and social freedom
  • Ronald Dworkin : Justice for Hedgehogs. Cambridge, Mass .: Harvard University Press, 2011.
  • Gerald A. Cohen : History, Labor and Freedom: Themes from Marx. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
  • Axel Honneth: The right of freedom. Outline of a democratic morality. Berlin: Suhrkamp 2011, ISBN 978-3-518-58562-7 .
  • Karsten Schubert: Freedom as Criticism. Foucault's social philosophy. Bielefeld: transcript 2018.
Secondary literature
  • I. Carter, HM Kramer, H. Steiner [Eds.]: Freedom: A Philosophical Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.
  • Julian Nida-Rümelin : About human freedom. Reclam, Stuttgart (UB 18365).
  • David Schmidtz, Jason Brennan : A Brief History of Liberty. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • Amir Dziri, Ahmad Milad Karimi ( eds .): Freedom in the Face of God: Interdisciplinary Positions on the Discourse of Freedom in Religion and Society , Münster 2015, ISBN 978-3-9815572-7-5 .
  • Claus Dierksmeier: Qualitative freedom. Self-determination in cosmopolitan responsibility. Bielefeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-8376-3477-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Freedom  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Freedom  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Entry free in: Kluge, etymological dictionary, 24th edition.
  2. Vedic 'priyá' = 'friend', as well as from the same root word: 'free' (in the sense of marrying) and 'peace', cf. Entry free in: Kluge, etymological dictionary, 24th edition and entry Freiheit I, introduction in: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck: Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe Vol. 2., Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-91500-1 , p. 425.
  3. Werner Conze, entry Freiheit I, introduction in: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck: Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe Vol. 2., Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-91500-1 , p. 425. In this etymology, however, Aristotle sounds like Theory of friendship .
  4. Geert Keil: Free will and determinism. Reclam: Stuttgart 2009, p. 98.
  5. Ian Carter:  Positive and Negative Liberty. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . .
  6. ^ Compare with Berlin the writings of: Hayek, JP Day, FE Oppenheim, D. Miller and H. Steiner.
  7. Ian Carter in Chapter 1. Two Concepts of Liberty
  8. ^ Raymond Geuss: Freedom in Liberalism and Marx . In: Julian Nida-Rümelin, Wilhelm Vossenkuhl: Ethical and political freedom . De Gruyter, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-11-014271-6 , p. 119.
  9. ^ Raymond Geuss, Freedom in Liberalism and Marx, in: Julian Nida-Rümelin, Wilhelm Vossenkuhl, Ethical and political freedom. De Gruyter, 1997, ISBN 3-11-014271-6 , p. 486.
  10. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Treatise on the origin and the foundations of inequality among people, in: ders .: Schriften, ed. v. Hennig Ritter, Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt M. 1988, Vol. 1, pp. 203f.
  11. Jan Schapp: About freedom in law , ACP 1992, p. 355ff
  12. Jan Schapp: Grundrechte als Wertordnung, JZ 1998, p. 913ff
  13. ^ Wilhelm von Humboldt : Report to the King . 1809. In: A. Flitner, K. Giel (Ed.): Wilhelm von Humboldt. Works in five volumes . Darmstadt / Stuttgart 1960–1981, Vol. IV, p. 218.
  14. Orlando Patterson: Freedom, Slavery, and the Modern Construction of Rights. In: Hans Joas, Klaus Wiegand (Hrsg.): The cultural values ​​of Europe. Frankfurt a. M. 2005, ISBN 3-596-16402-8 .
  15. See Henneke Gülzow, Christianity and Slavery in the First Three Centuries, Bonn 1969, pp. 177 ff.
  16. ^ Eike von Repgow , Sachsenspiegel, Landrecht III, 42; on this Hans Hattenhauer, European legal history, 4th edition. 2004, Rn 1462; also: Axel Montenbruck : civilization. A legal anthropology. State and people, violence and law, culture and nature, 2nd edition. 2010, p. 85, p. 107 ff. University library of the Free University of Berlin (open access).
  17. In his essay What is Enlightenment? .
  18. Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire. According to Norbert Guterman , A Book of French Quotations, 1963, Voltaire is said to have written this in a letter dated February 6, 1770 to an "Abbé Le Riche". There is a letter with this date; but it contains no such or similar sentence. The sentence could be a summary of the following: “J'aimais l'auteur du livre De l'Esprit (meaning: Helvétius ). Cet homme valait mieux que tous ses ennemis ensemble; mais je n'ai jamais approuvé ni les ereurs de son livre, ni les vérités triviales qu'il débite avec emphase. J'ai pris son parti hautement, quand des hommes absurdes l'ont condamné pour ces vérités mêmes. "(From the entry: Réflexion générale sur l'homme in the Dictionnaire Philosophique, Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (Ed. Garnier), tome 19, 1879, p. 375 ).
  19. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 290 .
  20. ^ GWF Hegel: Science of Logic II. (= Collected Works Vol. 12), Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1981, p. 15, ISBN 3-7873-0383-9
  21. Friedrich Engels: Mr. Eugen Dühring `s upheaval of science. Marx / Engels - Werke, Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1962, vol. 20, p. 106
  22. ^ Philipp Batthyány: Coercion as a basic evil in society? The concept of coercion in Friedrich August von Hayek. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2007, ISBN 3-16-149365-6
  23. ^ Niklas Luhmann : Die Wirtschaft der Gesellschaft, 1988, p. 113.
  24. See e.g. B. the catalog of fundamental rights and rights equivalent to fundamental law in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany .
  25. Reinhold Zippelius : Philosophy of Law , 6th edition, § 26 III.
  26. a b c d Jan Schapp: "Freedom, Morality and Law". 2nd Edition. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2017,  ISBN 978-3-16-148550-3 .
  27. a b Jan Schapp: On ethics, freedom and law. Ad Legendum 1/2012, pp. 8–15
  28. Jan Schapp: The Limits of Freedom in Jan Schapp On Freedom and Law , Mohr Siebeck 2008, p. 237ff
  29. Jan Schapp Private and Public Autonomy: On Respect for the Other in Law in Jan Schapp Methodology and System of Law , Mohr Siebeck 20009, p. 109ff
  30. See Udo di Fabio , The Culture of Freedom. CH Beck, Munich 2005
  31. Marx-Engels-Werke (MEW) 4, p. 465.
  32. Marx-Engels-Werke (MEW) 1, p. 370.
  33. Marx-Engels-Werke (MEW) 4, p. 482.
  34. ^ Josef Isensee, Paul Kirchhof: Handbuch des Staatsrechts . Heidelberg, ongoing loose-leaf collection.
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