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Pondering the palimpsest and panoply of the planet.

Archive for the tag “positive liberty”

Two Freedoms of Isaiah Berlin

Last month, I commented here on a short essay of literary criticism by Isaiah Berlin entitled “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” As I wrote, however, “Berlin himself admitted that the essay was not intended to be taken seriously, but as a sort of enjoyable ‘intellectual game.'” Much more serious and influential, however, was his 1958 Oxford inaugural lecture, “Two Concepts of Liberty”, which was later written in essay form and revised several times throughout Berlin’s life. Drawing freely from lessons from historical political thought, Berlin defined the two eponymous concepts as “negative” liberty and “positive” liberty.

As far as I can tell, there is no difference in general meaning or connotation between the two English words ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’. One is etymologically Latinate, and the other Germanic, which allows for the typically wider range of lexical variation and nuance in English than many other languages. In the case of this discussion, I will honor my predilection for variety and use the words interchangeably.  Read more…

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