Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 715–729 | Cite as

Overall Freedom Measurement and Evaluation: a Defence of the Partly Evaluative Approach to Freedom Measurement

  • Ronen ShnaydermanEmail author


Freedom is one of the most important moral and political ideals. Questions concerning degrees of overall freedom are therefore of the utmost moral and political concern. To answer these questions we need to know how to measure degrees of overall freedom. This paper offers a novel defence of the partly evaluative approach to freedom measurement against a recent critique of it. According to the partly evaluative approach, the question of how free one is depends partly on the specific value of the freedoms (and unfreedoms) one possesses and partly on their physical extension. According to the critique, because of its reference to freedoms’ specific value, the partly evaluative approach fails to capture freedoms’ non-specific value, which is what it should capture. In this paper I argue that this critique is unfounded, by showing that even measures of more mundane things, which nevertheless, like freedom, present us with a commensuration problem, sometimes involve evaluative considerations similar to the ones that the partly evaluative approach invokes.


Freedom Overall freedom Freedom measurement Freedom’s non-specific value Freedom’s specific value 



I am grateful to Matthew Braham, Ian Carter, Matthew Kramer, Thomas Schramme, Fabian Wendt, Stuart White, an anonymous referee, and audiences at the universities of Manchester, Minho, Osnabrück, Bayreuth, Konstanz, and Open University of Israel, for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. My work on this article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), Grant: Gz. SH 838/2-1.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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