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Civil Liberty and Fundamental Rights: a Neo-Roman Approach

When:We 15-01-2020 15:15 - 17:00
Where:Room Omega

Colloquium lecture by Prof. Quentin Skinner, organized by the Groningen Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Thought

This paper investigates two aspects of the neo-Roman theory of freedom.  The first claims that to enjoy civil liberty is to possess the status of a free person, and that this status consists in not being subject to the will of anyone else.  The second claims that the concept of fundamental rights is best understood as that list of co-exercisable liberties which must be secured to each of us if we are to possess the status of free persons.  Some objections that have lately been raised against these arguments are then considered and answered.  The paper ends by seeking to show that the espousal of a neo-Roman perspective might be the best means of addressing some current threats to civil liberties.

Quentin Skinner has been Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary University of London since 2008.  He graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1962, where he was elected a Fellow of Christ’s College in the same year and appointed to a Lectureship in the Faculty of History in 1965.  He was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton between 1974 and 1979, and Regius Professor of History at Cambridge between 1996 and 2008.  He has held visiting Professorships at Amsterdam, Berkeley, Canberra, Chicago, Harvard, Leuven, Northwestern, Oxford, Peking, Princeton and Washington St Louis; also at the Collège de France, the École des Hautes Etudes and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.  He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a foreign member of numerous other national academies.  His scholarship is available in more than two dozen languages, and has won him many awards, including the Isaiah Berlin Prize, the Wolfson History Prize, the Bielefeld Wissenschaftspreis, a Balzan Prize and two awards from the American Political Science Association.  He has been the recipient of honorary degrees from more than a dozen leading universities.  His two-volume study, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978), was listed by the Times Literary Supplement in 1996 as one of the hundred most influential books published since World War II.