The principle of freedom has customarily been treated by political thinkers with a degree of reverence that borders on religious devotion. Political literature is littered with proclamations that humankind should break free from some form of enslavement. Yet the popularity of freedom is often matched by confusion about what the term actually means, and why it is so widely respected. Is freedom, for instance, an unconditional good, or does it have costs or drawbacks? How much freedom should individuals and groups enjoy? At the heart of such questions, however, lies a debate about precisely what it means to be free. Does freedom mean being left alone to act as one chooses, or does it imply some kind of fulfilment, self-realization or personal development? Confusion is also caused by the fact that freedom is often associated with a range of other ideas, including toleration and identity. Toleration differs from freedom, but there is a sense in which it can also be thought of as a manifestation of freedom.
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