Explain the concept of liberty in the writings of Isaiah Berlin


Isaiah Berlin: negative and positive philosophy on Liberty

Isaiah Berlin’s first lesson “Two Concepts of Freedom” proved to be one of the major contributions to the political philosophy of the 20th century.

Berlin makes a distinction between negative freedom and positive freedom, and in his own opinion, these
different feelings of freedom are evoked in response to two questions.

If we ask “in which area is the subject – a person or a group people – is allowed or should be allowed to do or be what it is capable of doing or being, without the intervention of another person? »characterize the negative agent Liberty. “Political freedom” in this sense is simply the area in which a person can act without hindrance from others.”

If instead we ask: “What or who is a source of control or interference that can cause someone to do or be
this and not this? We aim to describe the agent’s positive freedom. Which summarized later as “freedom to be one’s own Owner.

The concept of Negative Liberty

The most prominent representative of the simplest version of negative freedom was Thomas Hobbes, who defined a free person in the most general terms as “one who in these things that he can do with his strength and his mind does not hinder do what he wants.

Negative freedom is often referred to as lack of coercion, where coercion is understood as the deliberate intervention other agents. Hobbesian negative freedom that is compromised coercive threats, as well as other means of prevention, is often contrasted with theories that imply that mere incapacities interfere with freedom. This point clarified by the following sentence: “It is not the lack of freedom (for people) not to steal like an eagle or swim like a whale.

Berlin insists that we distinguish between meaning (negative) liberty and the conditions that make the exercise of freedom possible. Thus, freedom of the press can be in a country where the majority of citizens illiterate. For the most part, the condition that would give freedom a point

literacy – can not be obtained. Under these conditions, Berlin will insist that illiteracy does not equate to lack of liberty. Clearly something wrong in a society that fails to educate its citizens to the level they can enjoy central liberty, but this is something not needed be the absence of freedom. Basic education, including literacy, can be an internal good, or it may be a human right. Its location may be an issue justice, its denial, transparent injustice. However, this state of affairs described, unfreedom must be distinguished from the conditions under which where it is difficult or impossible to enjoy formal liberty.

The important point that Berlin wants us to acknowledge is that the various basic principles values may conflict. Requirements for fairness or security may require truncation freedom, or vice versa, in the face of a moral or insoluble dilemma tragedy.

Berlin and positive Liberty

Isaiah Berlin defines positive liberty as follows: “positive” feeling of word “liberty” comes from the desire of a person to be his own. I want my life to be a decision that depends on myself, and not on the outside world. powers of any kind. I want to be my own instrument, not other people, acts of will. I want to be a subject, not an object; be moved causes, conscious ends that belong to me, and not causes that influence me, so to speak, from the outside.

I want to be somebody, not nobody; actor – decisive, indecisive, self-directed and unaccompanied by action external nature or people, as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave unable to play a human role, i.e. develop goals and policies themselves and their achievements. This is at least part of what I mean when I say that I am reasonable and that it is my mind that distinguishes me as person from the rest of the world.

First of all, I want to be informed himself as an active thinking being, voluntary, responsible for his own choices and able to explain them with reference to my own ideas and goals. I feel free to the extent that I believe it’s true and enslaved degree that I have come to understand that this is not the case.

Berlin’s historical sketch of liberty

a) Self-control and self-realization

It involves working on your own desires – streamlining, strengthening, eliminate them – in accordance with the idea of what is right or good for me to do or be. This is a complex concept, the heart of which is a complex system.

Nowadays, the development of this can be traced through Locke, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel. He reappeared in recent work by Harry Frankfurt and Charles Tylor. We are well liberty and liberty accustomed to the idea that we exercise self-control when we resist temptation.

Freedom of action consists in our ability to value the desires that we push us into action and decide whether to satisfy them or not. So account, the paradigm of freedom is to go against what we we want the most, we do what we think is the best. But, as Hegel pointed out, the best Of all the worlds for a free man, there is one in which that which, after reflection, we think it’s right and we find we want it the most.

b) Paternalism

Suppose I am unable to exercise this self-control. I may not know which is better for me. I may not understand the full value of the alternatives. I may not understand the full value of alternatives. Like a child who does I don’t want to take unpleasant-tasting (but life-saving) medicine, I’m wrong real interests. Under such circumstances, a wise parent will not be disgusted.

This will force the medicine down. Wouldn’t it be justified then for you exercise control over me that I am unable to achieve or maintain? Doesn’t freedom require control of me that you can own – were my own powers of self-control missing? This reflection is especially relevant where your paternalistic intervention creates or maintains conditions for me self-selection that is hindered by my own actions.

c) Social self-control

But if I use my freedom through self-control, and if you promote my freedom with appropriate paternalistic intervention, may my freedom not be backed up by institutional arrangements that I approve of?

In the republic according to Rousseau’s Social Contract, citizens acquire moral and political freedom,
enact laws with enforcement sanctions that apply to them as so to others.

If I, as a person, cannot resist the temptation that probably hurt me, wouldn’t it be a wise trick to conceive a social mechanism that will strengthen my resolve? If I understand that the threat punishment against me will keep me on the straight and narrow path that wisdom alone cannot make me follow unless I appoint and accept social restrictions that are stronger than my morality without outside help strength? And by doing so, am I not expanding my true freedom?

d) Public service

Reckless citizen, incapable of immediate and insufficient self-control plans to adopt or approve measures of social coercion, may, nevertheless, access to freedom indirectly and second hand, if the state exercises
necessary control, despite its disapproval or lack of participation. The state can control us in serving our true interests – and therefore set us free.


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