“Liberty and Diversity” by Chandran Kukathas

Philosophy Seminar Series: Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Chandran Kukathas, Chair in Political Theory, Department of Government, London School of Economics; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson


The Mill of On Liberty is convinced that diversity, far from being a threat to liberty, gives liberty its point. What could matter more than human development in its richest diversity; and how better to promote it than by a regime of liberty that leaves people to pursue their own goals as they see fit? But the Mill of the Considerations worries that, left to their own devices and desires, people will not become sufficiently alike to be governed as a single collectivity, or develop sufficient virtue to be governed at all. Libertarian though he is, Mill cannot help think that the government of a free society must take upon itself the task of fostering the qualities necessary for all individuals to possess for the society to prosper.

If freedom matters, and matters above all, should we seek to ensure that a free society is populated by people who appreciate its importance, or at least possess the qualities and attitudes needed to sustain it? Or, if freedom matters, and matters above all, should we let freedom find expression in the great diversity of human attitudes to all things, including freedom? Should people be forced to be free? Or if not forced, at least induced (threatened, tricked, cajoled, bribed, manipulated, or generally educated) into that condition? This paper offers an answer.

About the Speaker: Chandran Kukathas holds the Chair in Political Theory in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and is Visiting Professor in the Departments of Political Science and of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of The Liberal Archipelago.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.