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Liberty
by Isaiah Berlin
Overview
Five essays on liberty, and some more.
Mainly about two issues: freedom versus determinism and "negative" and "positive" liberty.
Introduction
Mainly about two issues: freedom versus determinism and "negative" and "positive" liberty.
In this introduction, which is the introduction to "Four Essays on Liberty" published in 1969, Berlin is primarily concerned to respond to criticism raised against his views. This comes under two headings corresponding to the central planks of his philosophical stance on liberty. The first of these concerns the relationship between liberty and determinism, the second that between "negative" and "positive" liberty.
Liberty and Determinism

This is Berlin having another go at a controversy which has raged (he says) for 2000 years.

He believes moral responsibility to be dependent on freedom, and the relevant kind of liberty to be incompatible with determinism. He also believes that this position is implicit in the use by ordinary people of moral language, so that when we praise someone for their morally good behaviour the belief we express entails that their behaviour was not causally determined.

He is of course acquainted with compatibilism, but seems unable to comprehend that position as a coherent alternative to his. He seems not to consider the possibility that this is a disagreement about the meaning of moral vocabulary in which the protagonists disagree not only about what moral language means but also about what ordinary people engaged in moral discourse believe about the moral terms they employ.

It seems in this dispute neither protagonist is able to comprehend the other as advocating a coherent position. Berlin defends his position against the percieved accusation of incoherence but is unable to comprehend the opposing position as coherent.

Negative and Positive Liberty

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