The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. (J.S. Mill)
It is the responsibility of the state ... to maintain the conditions without which a free exercise of the human faculties is impossible. (T.H. Green)
Explain and critically assess these different accounts of freedom.
The idea of distinguishing between a negative and a positive sense of the term liberty' was first examined by Isaiah Berlin in 1958 during a lecture entitled Two concepts of Liberty.He defined negative liberty as the absence of constraints, barriers or obstacles on agents' possible actions and positive liberty [as] the possibility of acting in such a way as to take control of one's life and realize one's fundamental purposes.Positive liberty is associated with the idea of self-mastery, control, self-determination, self-realization.
On one side, theorists in the classical liberal tradition, like Constant, Humboldt, Spencer and Mill, typically argue that it is not desirable for the state to promote the freedom of citizens on their behalf and defend a negative concept of liberty. In On Liberty, written in 1859, Mill states that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. On the other side, theorists that are critical of the liberal tradition, like Rousseau, Hegel, Marx and T.H. Green, think the state should promote the freedom of citizens and defend a positive concept of political freedom. Green argues that it is the responsibility of the state [...] to maintain the conditions without which a free exercise of the human faculties is impossible.
We are going to study these two different accounts of freedom, focusing on J.S. Mill and T.H Green.
[...] Mill defends a negative concept of liberty that is liberty as a freedom from the constraints imposed by the state and public opinion. am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity”. If this liberty was unlimited, would lead to social chaos” so area of men's free actions must be limited by In On Liberty, J.S Mill explores nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual”. [...]
[...] J.S. Mill, On Liberty J.S. Mill, On Liberty Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. J.S. Mill, On Liberty Ibid. Ibid. I. Berlin, concepts of Liberty” Ibid. T.H. Green, “Liberal legislation [...]
[...] True freedom is the freedom of the society as a whole: “freedom is not true freedom unless it is shared by everyone”. We cannot consider an action an advance towards the true freedom of man if it is founded on a refusal of the same opportunity to other men”. So Green criticizes Mill's vision that “freedom something essentially enjoyed by individuals and society a source of restriction on this freedom”. For Green, liberty is a social phenomenon, so he was more communitarian whereas Mill was more individualist. [...]
[...] So some philosophers have rejected the dichotomy between individual” and “society” taken for granted by Mill, defending the idea of Plato and Aristotle that the individual is a “social being”. For Devlin, even morality and immorality cannot be a private matter since every society is held together by a shared public morality. So infringements to this shared morality are the concern of society. It would be threat to the social order and the moral code which holds it together. Though they may be ‘private' acts in one sense, they are also violations of this public morality”. [...]
[...] Green publishes a Lecture on Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract in which he criticizes Mill's negative conception of liberty and defends a “positive conception of liberty” : positive sense of the word ‘liberty' derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master”. For Green, liberty is not only the absence of constraint on the individual's actions but also the presence of a positive power of capacity. “When we speak of freedom [as the greatest of blessings] we do not mean merely freedom from restriction or compulsion. [...]
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