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Two concepts of freedom
What defines individual freedom in a civilised society? Philosophers have argued over...
What defines individual freedom in a civilised society? Philosophers have argued over such questions for centuries. This unit looks at various concepts of freedom, asking you to think carefully about how freedom is restricted by our place in society and how it can vary from state to state.
By the end of this unit you should:
- be able to distinguish between negative and positive concepts of freedom;
- have a good knowledge of the main points in Isaiah Berlin's article ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’;
- be able to recognise emotive language, to distinguish between necessary truths and contingent facts, and to appreciate what is involved in refutation by counterexample.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Introducing the concept of freedom
- 2 The word ‘freedom’
- 3 Isaiah Berlin's ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ (1958)
- 4 Conclusion
- Next steps
Two concepts of freedom
‘Freedom’ can mean many different things. Here we're concerned with political freedom. Isaiah Berlin distinguished between a concept of negative freedom and a concept of positive freedom. You will examine these concepts and learn to recognise the difference between freedom from constraint and the freedom that comes from self-mastery or self-realisation.
The following material is taken from the book Arguments for Freedom ‘1999’ authored by Nigel Warburton of The Open University.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Philosophy course units or view the range of currently available OU Philosophy courses.