Centre for Contemporary Political Theory Research Seminar Series: "Freedom and Viruses"

We are delighted to welcome Kieran Oberman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, to present at our research seminar series.


A common complaint against lockdowns is that they restrict freedom. On this view, lockdowns might be effective in protecting public health, but their impact on freedom is purely negative. This article challenges that view. The central claim is that while lockdowns may restrict freedom, so too do viruses. This is true even on a negative conception of freedom under which only external constraints imposed by other people qualify as restrictions. It remains true if we conceive of freedom in either normative or republican terms. Since viruses restrict freedom, and since lockdowns protect us from viruses, lockdowns can protect us from the harmful effects that viruses have upon our freedom. Depending on the circumstances, lockdowns could enhance freedom, protect more valuable freedoms or redistribute freedom from those who have more to those who have less. Those defending lockdowns should not then cede the language of freedom to opponents. The problem we face is not necessarily freedom vs public health. Sometimes freedom itself provides reason for lockdowns. 

Speaker bio

Kieran Oberman is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the University of Pompeu Fabra. His work is in political philosophy with a focus on the ethics of war, immigration and poverty. 

Joinging information

This seminar is held on TEAMS, access the meeting.