Notes on philosophical issues regarding different forms and the value of liberty for Unit 3 AQA exam

HideShow resource information
Preview of Liberty

First 633 words of the document:

When discussing whether we believe that a society or individual within a society has
sociopolitical liberty the debate around freewill and determinism (to what extent human
agency is curtailed and determined by factors outside of a person's control is not usually
relevant, rather the focus is usually focused on the justification and extent that political bodies
and wider society can have say over the actions of the individual. What concept of liberty a
person adopts usually rests on numerous other factors such as their views on human nature,
the importance of social norms and the legitimate powers of government.
Negative and positive freedom
`What is the area in which the subject is able to do or to be without interference from other
persons?' This is what the RussoBritish philosopher Isiah Berlin, known for his many works
in political philosophy including Four Essays on Liberty presented this as the question that
needed to be answered if we were to come to understand of what negative liberty
constitutes, whereas in contrast positive liberty can be clarified by answering the question
`what or who is the source of control or interference that can determine a person to be this
or that?'
From the outset the lack of interference associated with negative liberty seems to be heavily
linked to being able to do what we want or need to do to achieve a certain thing. If there is
an absence of constraints then I have autonomy in my life. However this is clearly not the
case, for example a person may not physically be preventing me from going to university
however I may still be unable to due to lack of resources or other such impediments. Further
to material restrictions on a person's ability to act there may be restrictions stemming from
personal morality, such as struggling in the face of having to perform an act that you may
consider to be morally wrong to get what you want such as stealing money to pay for
something that you want, the knowledge that you do not deserve the money juxtaposed with
the desire for the item, (for example a new mobile phone) can lead to a feeling of inner
turmoil and struggle. The concept put forward by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato of a
conflict between a higher rational self and a lower, appetite drive, hedonistic self can be used
to illustrate this. In Plato's view to be autonomous we need to be ruled by the rational part
of our self, which controls our lower parts of `spirit' and `desire'. This can lead to a
potentially dangerous situation according to Berlin as by emphasising positive freedom and
autonomy over negative freedom and lack of constraints we are technically forcing people to
be free, to choose one form of freedom over another. For Berlin this could lead to
totalitarian government in the political sphere as the state could claim to have a monopoly
over what is rational and as such the best form of freedom is negative freedom. This again
can be contrasted with Plato's political philosophy as he saw that the best way for the state
to be ruled would be through the directions and instructions of the so called Philosopher
Kings who alone could see through the deceptions of the material world to the true Forms
and ultimately the Form of the Good, the source of all morality. Shockingly, there is quite a
clear and stark comparison that can be drawn between Plato's vision of the state, with the

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

Philosopher Kings at the top, the guardians or soldiers in the middle strata and workers at
the bottom and the fascist vision of the state which if we take the example of the Nazi state
was ruled over by a leader who claimed to be the sole source of wisdom followed by the
`warrior elite of the state' such as the SS (or in fascist Italy the brownshirts) and finally the
weak masses who, under correct leadership, could be helped to curtail their ignorance and…read more

Page 3

Preview of page 3

Here's a taster:

Now, according to Mill's criteria a person who
decides to take heroin should be allowed to because they are sovereign over their mind and
body, and if they end up being addicted to it then they should still be allowed to continue
taking it.…read more

Page 4

Preview of page 4

Here's a taster:

Berlin's point can be illustrated by pointing out that if a person tries to eat in restaurant by do
not have the money to pay they can then be subject to physical coercion by being forcibly
removed from the restaurant. As such, money gives us a right to access certain freedoms,
however lack of money does not mean that the freedoms themselves cease to exist, they are
just not accessible at the point to that particular individual.…read more

Page 5

Preview of page 5

Here's a taster:

While these criticisms may be important concerns to take into consideration they do not
necessarily undermine the basic premise of why autonomy is a good thing. To supporters of
autonomy as a form of positive liberty they may seem to be ignoring the fact that many
would say that autonomy cannot enhanced by telling people what to do but ultimately only
by providing people with differing arguments and perspectives, unbiased evidence and
means of evaluation so they can come to their own conclusions.…read more

Page 6

Preview of page 6

Here's a taster:

The best way to ensure that there is consistently a legally defined sphere of negative liberty
within which people can exist freely is to be involved in the state.…read more

Page 7

Preview of page 7

Here's a taster:

Furthermore collectivist anarchists (such as communist anarchists) would argue that because
in their view human beings are at heart sociable and compassionate animals it would not
make sense to rely on the law for protection of our liberties. For all anarchists the state and
as such the laws laid down by the state corrupt our true cooperative nature and without it
we are not less free but have unlimited freedom.…read more

Page 8

Preview of page 8

Here's a taster:

Furthermore, liberty is also of great use to social utility. Mill believes that if we allow people
a great arena of personal liberty then social progress may result and better alternative ways
of living may be more commonplace, for example there is a small yet growing polyamory
movement who define themselves as ethical nonmonogamists as they believe that it is
possible for people to have more than one romanticsexual relationship at the time, and
indeed that it is better.…read more

Page 9

Preview of page 9

Here's a taster:

Conservatives have argued that as society progresses there needs to be a gradual shift in
liberties however that these should be in the form of inherited liberties rooted in the history
and culture of the society. Given their pessimistic view of human nature (believing people to
be ultimately selfish and weak minded) conservative theorists have often spoken out against
the type of unrestrained liberties that are advocated by classical liberals and anarchists.…read more

Page 10

Preview of page 10

Here's a taster:

Marx. Far from abolishing classes in Marx's view, the Bolsheviks
simply replaced one ruling class with another. While some claim that this is evidence of the
ultimate impracticality and structural flaws of Marxism others have countered this by saying
that it was the deviation of Stalinism from classical Marxism that led to the oppression within
Russia rather than problems with classical Marxist thought.…read more


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all resources »