chapter  2
33 Pages

Isaiah Berlin on positive and negative freedom

WithHans Blokland

Isaiah Berlin was chairman of the British Academy. He is mainly known for his work in the history of ideas and political theory, but has also been active in the fields of theory of knowledge and science, literature and musicology. A thread running through Berlin’s work is his crusade against the widespread monistic conviction that there is only one correct answer to every question and that all correct answers can be arranged in a harmonious manner into a single knowable rational system. If one wants to understand and, if possible, guide in positive directions the strongest motives behind the history of individuals, groups and civilizations, it will be necessary to analyse and evaluate the concepts and categories which are at the bottom of human thinking and action. According to Berlin, the negative freedom of an individual is defined, as stated, by the presence or absence of impediments on the roads which he might choose to take.