Recovering the Liberal Spirit

Nietzsche, Individuality, and Spiritual Freedom

By Steven F. Pittz

Subjects: Political Theory, Political Philosophy, Intellectual History, Politics, Identity
Paperback : 9781438479781, 238 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438479774, 238 pages, September 2020

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Table of contents



1. The Free Spirit

2. A Safe Distance from Politics

3. Free Spirits in Action: Practicing Political Detachment

4. Free Spirits in Liberal Political Society

5. The Possibility of Autonomy: The Progressive Critique

6. The Desirability of Autonomy: The Communitarian Critique



Develops a theory of spiritual freedom and explores its relationship to problems of liberal political regimes.


Liberalism is often castigated for being spiritually empty and unable to provide meaning for individuals. Is it true that there simply is no spiritual side to liberalism? In Recovering the Liberal Spirit, Steven F. Pittz develops a novel conception of spiritual freedom. Drawing from Nietzsche and his figure of the "free spirit," as well as from thinkers as varied as Mill, Emerson, Goethe, Hesse, C. S. Lewis, and Tocqueville, Pittz examines a tradition of individual freedom best described as spiritual. Spiritual freedom is an often overlooked category of liberal freedom, and it provides a path to meaning without a return to communal or traditional life. While carefully considering Progressive and Communitarian counterarguments Pittz argues for both the possibility and the desirability of a free-spirited life. Citizens who are "free spirits" deliver great benefits to liberal democracies, primarily by combatting dogmatism and fanaticism and the putative authority of public opinion.

Steven F. Pittz is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.


"…this is a marvelous and thought‐provoking book, and it sets out a path for grounding and defending liberalism worth attention and further development." — Cato Journal

"Liberalism is currently undergoing a crisis, both in theory and practice. Pittz contributes to the field by offering a positive ideal internal to the liberal tradition, the idea of the free spirit, which can provide spiritual fulfillment and is realized by liberal communities. He is quite well versed in the major literature on all the historical figures he cites, and has a deep knowledge of Nietzsche's work." — Jeffrey Church, author of Nietzsche's Unfashionable Observations