Philosophy requires liberty

The Advancement of Philosophy is Dependent on Liberty

To advance culture philosophically (not just technologically or economically) liberty is required. The major philosophical works came from liberal nations. (TIP: We mean Liberal as in “popular governments” and “not oppressive despotic governments”, not as in “modern American Socially Progressive Liberalism“.)

In other words, all enlightened works arise out of just states, and all despotic states produce a lack of enlightened works.

This is true for Plato and Aristotle, for Livy, for Machiavelli, for all the Enlightenment philosophers including Hume who originated the idea in his essays on Human Nature and Understanding (almost positive it was him in that work and not another work of his or Locke or Kant, should have noted a page number; will get back on this point), and for many more.[1]

This isn’t to say that tyranny doesn’t produce philosophy, if you see George III as a tyrant and Madison as a philosopher, (or Locke and James II) then certainly it can… but that isn’t really a correct view, as few nations up to that point had been as free as George III’s America or James II’s England (that not being a kindness to George or James, but a comment on the rest of history).[2]

Liberty isn’t just a statue or a saying, and it isn’t just a symbol that means “Real America” or “why libertarianism”, it is a concept at the core of human experince and politics that is beyond these things, it arises in nature  and guides the social contract.

Liberty and equality, but almost foremost liberty, is the secret sauce of everything good about our existence as humans. They are the two values that create the core of liberalism and those that create democracy, they are implied by republicanism, and they have long been considered virtues.

Not liberty unrestrained, not liberty understood by a child, but true liberty (which is naturally weighted against the equally natural equality and their responses authority, order, and hierarchy AKA inequality and illiberality).

The concept is simple, only in times when philosophers are free to speak without a despotic fear of tyrannical oppression can the best philosophy be written, only when people are comfortable enough to sit around and think can the best philosophy be written.

People can only be free when there is liberty, and people can only be comfortable when there is equality.

Philosophy requires liberty, but excesses of liberty and equality are corrupting. How do we know this? Because we in the west have ensured times of liberty and equality from which philosophy could arise that guided us toward more democratic times.

With that said, once liberty has been gained, then the balancing act of the many virtues is required and we get the technocratic impossibilities of sustaining a government that reflects the highest values (and respects the lowest).

This has many pitfalls, and things can get tricky.

Still, while this thought process could fill books, the only point here is: Philosophy requires liberty. Thus anyone who loves wisdom must love liberty, and anyone who loves liberty must seek to temper it before it creates a tyrant. Life is complex.


Show me a famous philosophical work written under the direction of a true tyrant and I’ll consider revising my statements. All great works of philosophy have been written in liberal times, in liberal nations, typically by liberals. After-all, a liberal is imply one who loves liberty and equality, within the bounds of reason. With that said, there is of course, different types of liberals.


  1. Human Nature and Understanding
  2. Hume’s Account of Liberty and Necessity The Project

"Philosophy Requires Liberty" is tagged with: Left–right Politics, Liberalism, Liberty

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