Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe. (Edmund Burke). Defining justice and how achieve a just society depends on the conception we have of the notion of liberty and equality. These two elements are the core notions of political philosophy since political theorists have constructed their theories of justice from these two central concepts. This is also what argues Edmund Burke in this quotation. In his opinion, no distinction can be done between liberty and justice; no justice can be conceived without considering liberty. The idea of liberty has such appeal that its analysis preoccupies most of political philosophers in very different schools of thought from Libertarians, Liberals, Republicans, Feminists, Marxists or Anarchists, each of them claiming to be its true defender. It is a topic debated in philosophy since Ancient Greece. The first deep analysis is probably the one of Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics with the notion of free will or before then with Plato in The Republic searching to define liberty in metaphysic significance.
[...] In the second one, liberty is thought as exercising control over one's life (definition of Charles Taylor) and the absence of something can be source of coercion. In this view, if you lack money you will also lack freedom since you will not be able to live your life in the way you wish. Negative and positive liberty are not merely two kinds of liberty, they can be seen as rival, depending of the political ideal. This dichotomy established by Berlin is yet not accepted by all the political philosophers. There are other ways to think liberty. [...]
[...] The question is you lack money, do you also lack freedom?” It refers to these two definitions of liberty: if we consider that the answer to this question is No and that there is no connexion between the fact of owning money and being free and more broadly that only the presence of something can render a person unfree then we agree with the concept of “negative” freedom. In the opposite case, if we thing that Yes, being short in money affect our liberty, then that mean we consider that the absence of something may also render a person unfree, this is the concept of “positive” freedom. [...]
[...] According to Berlin using Helvétius, “Mere incapacity to attain a goal is not lack of political freedom”, lack political liberty only if you are prevented from attaining a goal by human beings”. This is why in this conception lack of money does not mean lack of freedom. But concretely if you are without resources, ill or addict to something you cannot pretend to be free. Hence the concept of positive liberty. In this second part I will firstly precisely define the concept of positive liberty and the sense of this distinction. [...]
[...] But if we imagine that the reason why this person chooses to go to right or left is that he is a drug addict desperately looking from some substances in a dangerous area, in the middle of the night and at a very high speed because he absolutely needs his drugs rapidly. The situation change dramatically. Rather than driving, this person is being driven, as he urges to absorb substances leads him uncontrollably to turn right or left. He knows that it is dangerous and threatening his longevity. [...]
[...] Since the concept of “positive” freedom implies the absence of something may also render a person unfree, in this perspective, lack money can mean lack freedom if this money is necessary to realise a self-determined goal. When as a liberal Berlin is in favour of the notion of negative liberty, Charles Taylor defends the idea of positive liberty in his critique of Berlin's notion of negative liberty in an essay called “What's wrong with Negative Liberty?” (1979). The main criticism against the concept of positive liberty is the risk of tyranny or totalitarism. [...]
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