Freedom of choice: John Stuart Mill and the tree of life

Jorge Alcalde-Unzu, Miguel A. Ballester, Jorge Nieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This essay deals with the notion and content of freedom of choice proposing a new set up and a new family of measures for this concept which is, indeed, an ethical value of paramount importance in a well ordered and open society. Following some ideas of John Stuart Mill, we propose that freedom of choice has to be understood not in a single stage of choice, but in the ordered collection of choices that a person can make in her life. We then suggest to represent a life in a tree structure, where each node represents a state of life and the edges between nodes will represent possible decisions in life. In this new framework, we propose a set of axioms that imply the following family of measures of lifetime's freedom of choice: the lifetime's freedom of choice has to be evaluated by a weighted sum of all possible states of life an individual might visit, with weights representing the number of decisions the individual took to reach that state. © 2011 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-226
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Autonomy
  • Freedom of choice
  • Tree of life


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