The Two Liberties: How Positive and Negative Freedom Define Politics

Man’s conception of liberty is key to his behaviour in the world and his interaction with the forces in society. Truly, much of what man desires is grasping liberty for himself and for those he cares. As such, knowing the nature of what liberty truly is, is crucial to the beliefs of the man himself, and ultimately, a defining feature of the society that man rules. Sir Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher, made a key distinction in what liberty truly is:

1) Positive liberty: That true liberty is that man is able to act on his free will. If one wishes to do something, they should be able to do it.

2) Negative liberty: That true liberty is the concept that man is not beholden to outward forces restraining him. The antithesis of liberty is something forcing man to do an action; therefore, that action must be eradicated for liberty to exist.

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