Democratic Education and Deliberative Freedom: A Defence of Co-learning

  • Nuraan DavidsEmail author
  • Yusef Waghid


In this chapter, we offer an account of Berlin’s (Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, 1969) conceptions of positive and negative liberty. We bring into contestation the argument that an individual’s freedom to act autonomously, without any interference or constraint, can ever be the case, if one considers, that an individual’s action is always in relation to others, and hence, always conditional. We draw on Gutmann’s (Democratic Education, Princeton University Press, 1987) argument that an individual’s freedom does not happen independently from the exercise of freedom by others which, in turn, constrains their freedom as they do things in collaboration with others. Consequently, the exercise of freedom is both autonomous and interdependent: autonomous freedom is exercised through individual human agency; and interdependent human freedom is practised in relation with others. We contend that at the heart democratic education is the notion of deliberative freedom: to act with deliberative rationality, and to pursue one’s engagement with others on the basis of an emotive freedom, that enhances the possibility for co-learning and ethical judgement of a rational and emotive kind.


Positive liberty Negative liberty Autonomy Deliberative freedom 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education Policy StudiesStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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