Feinberg’s Theory of Freedom and Rights The exact meaning of “freedom” is often misunderstood due to the many meanings the word has taken on. When a man was labeled “free” decades ago, it was to distinguish if you were simply talking about his legal rights or the characteristics his status. If someone tells you now-a-days that they are “free” it now poses the problem of not knowing exactly what they are free from. Is the man free from debt, from his country’s government or from his sins? We will not know until more information is given to us.
We just know he is free from something that was constraining. Feinberg draws a tie between constraints and desires which lead him to the conclusion that freedom is unsatisfied when constrains stand in the way of our desires. When this happens, our reaction is frustration, which is considered unhappiness. With that idea, having freedom would conclude that the person was considered happy. This may seem far- fetched but drawn up thoroughly by Feinberg. The idea of being happy when having freedom is board.
We need to figure out what kind of freedom is being awarded. There is positive and negative freedom. But watch out, the names are misleading. Positive doesn’t always mean “great” or “pleasant” in this case and negative freedom doesn’t necessarily meaning “awful” or “appalling. ” On top of “positive” and “negative” constraints being factors in the definition of a person’s freedom, we also have to look at the source of the constraint. It can either be external or internal meaning the source is coming from an outside source or within you.
A great definition was stated in Feinberg’s article “If the distinction between internal and external is to be put to political use, perhaps the simplest way of making it is by means of merely spatial criterion: external constraints are those that come from outside a person’s body-cum-mind, and all other constraints. ” (p. 13) With the idea of external and internal constraints brought into the picture, we now have a pool of constraints to choose from. Positive external, negative internal are just a few examples.
Positive now means “addition or adding something on,” whereas negative means “taking away or lack of. ” An example of an internal positive constraint would be a headache whereas an external positive constraint would be a lock door. An example of an internal negative constraint would be ignorance whereas an external negative constraint would be a lack of money. Once we can see that there are different types of constraints, there is no real reason to speak of the two different types of freedom.
The reason there is no longer a need to discriminate is that if nothing prevents me from doing something, I am free to do something conversely, I am free to do something then nothing prevents me from doing something. Feinberg’s idea of “human rights” was they were sometimes understood to be ideal rights, sometimes conscientious rights and sometimes both. They are considered moral rights due to the fact that each person held them equally, unconditionally. He doesn’t suggest the rights are moral by definition and leaves that up for argument but does admit that there is a possibility that human rights don’t even exists.