Four Conceptions of Freedom
Political Theory 38(6) (2010), pp. 780-808
30 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2012
Date Written: October 11, 2012
In this paper I discuss Benjamin Constant’s division between the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns, and Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive liberty. I explore whether the received twofold classification of liberty should be dismissed in favor of one single concept of liberty (“reductionism”), or rather expanded to include a “third concept of liberty” (“anti-reductionism”). I defend anti-reductionism. However, instead of asserting that there is a “third”, new concept, I argue that there lurk four concepts of liberty in Berlin’s famous lecture. I present a fourfold classification of concepts of liberty. Armed with this classification, I show that Constant’s and Berlin’s dichotomies do not really coincide, as often wrongly assumed.
Keywords: Freedom, Liberty, Liberalism
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