A Short Summary: Two Concepts Of Liberty

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Two Concepts of Liberty

Summary of the essay:

In this essay, the famous political theorist Isaiah Berlin tries to differentiate between the notions of positive liberty and negative liberty. Berlin briefly discusses the meaning of the word ‘freedom’. He says that a person is said to free when no man or body of men interferes with his activity. He makes reference to many philosophers in the essay, but there is more emphasis on the thoughts of J. S. Mill and Rousseau, the former being a firm advocate of negative liberty while the latter believes strongly in the ideals of positive liberty.
Negative liberty is freedom from restraint. From this essay, we can make out that Berlin is an admirer of J.S. Mills and his principles. Mills viewed any type of constraint as a violation of a human being’s ‘natural’ rights. To quote Berlin,
“Coercion frustrates human desires, but it can be applied to prevent greater evils. Non-interference, on the other hand, is the opposite of coercion, is good, but not the only good.”
This is supposedly the ‘negative’ conception of liberty in its classical form. Secondly, Berlin believes that this negative notion is comparatively new. Thirdly, liberty, in this sense, is principally concerned with ‘the area of control, not with its source’. He believes that negative freedom is not logically related to democracy or self-government. In a nutshell, negative freedom can be seen as ‘an absence of something’.
Positive freedom, on the other hand, can be
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