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Two concepts of freedom

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What defines individual freedom in a civilised society? Philosophers have argued over such questions for centuries. This free course, Two concepts of freedom, looks at a positive and a negative concept 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.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • distinguish between negative and positive concepts of freedom
  • understand the main points in Isaiah Berlin's article ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’
  • recognise emotive language, to distinguish between necessary truths and contingent facts, and to appreciate what is involved in refutation by counterexample.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 20 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 12th January 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Philosophy
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Two concepts of freedom


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‘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 OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 2 study in Arts and Humanities [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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