Sir Isaiah Berlin's Analysis of Freedom in Two Concepts of Liberty Essay

Sir Isaiah Berlin's Analysis of Freedom in Two Concepts of Liberty Essay

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Sir Isaiah Berlin's Analysis of Freedom in Two Concepts of Liberty

Sir Isaiah Berlin is the author of one of the most important works on
political philosophy written in the twentieth century - 'Two Concepts
of Liberty'. In the essay, he distinguishes between two types of
liberty. Negative liberty is simply being left alone to do whatever
one wants to do, to be able to act and achieve without interference
from other persons. Positive liberty is defined as being free to be
one's own master, but also involves someone interfering with one's
life to determine to an extent what one becomes, and how one becomes
one's own master.

Gerald MacCallum (1925-87) states that Berlin makes a mistake in
defining two different concepts of freedom. He puts forward a triadic
concept of freedom which includes both positive and negative liberty:
x is free from y to do or become z. He believes that this concept of
liberty is the correct concept and that Berlin's distinction is
unnecessary, as his triadic concept includes both of Berlin's
distinctions. MacCallum states that whatever claim about freedom one
has in mind, it will always deal with x, the subject of the
freedom/unfreedom, y, the restraint or interference, and z, which is
whatever x wants to do or become.

Negative liberty is clearly defined by Thomas Hobbes. He declares that
humans are free insofar as they are left alone to achieve whatever
they are able to achieve. Freedom involves humans not being hindered
when they act in ways they wish. It is important to understand that
this absence of interference is the absence of human interference, not
just any arbitrary interference. For Berlin, f...


... middle of paper ...


...ve' that it would create a Hobbesian state of
nature, life in which Hobbes himself claims would be 'solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish and short' due to the non-interference. The left go for
'positive' liberty because a welfare state would make more people more
free through such initiatives as free health care and education, and
would make people effectively free.

[2] Some may argue that having more traffic lights actually increases
freedom on the road, as there will be fewer accidents and pedestrians
will be able to cross safer. However, some may argue that religion
restricts freedom of thought, as most religions are based around creed
and dogma which are propounded as indubitable truths. Any argument
against these is usually classed as heresy and the persons who uttered
the heresy are barred from the religious society.

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