Review Of "A Philosophy Of Freedom" By L. Svendsen

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Svendsen (Univ. of Bergen, Norway) offers a wide-ranging discussion and defense of freedom—both metaphysical and normative—demonstrating his solid grasp of issues and literature on both these broad topics. Included are a sensible discussion of the limits of brain science as it pertains to freedom, and a careful survey of various responses to determinism. Svendsen argues that if people are to make sense of their lives as moral animals, then their use of various "reactive attitudes" such as resentment and gratitude (see P. F Strawson’s Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays, CH, Nov'74) is unavoidable, along with such notions as autonomy. But, of course, freedom and autonomy are contested concepts, insists Svendsen. Though he does not break new ground, his synoptic integration of views on these topics will stir readers to think more clearly about them. Svendsen defends liberal democracy in some detail but recognizes the internal tensions inherent in any democracy, e.g., majority rule and minority rights, and free expression and its limits. One of the good things about this book is the author's thorough familiarity with both so-called analytic and so-called Continental sources, which he brings together fruitfully in his final chapter, citing the works of Michel Foucault, Paul Ricoeur, and Harry Frankfurt. Valuable for all libraries, especially undergraduate ones. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through graduate students; general readers.


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