Full of Hope and Fear. The
Liberalism of Isaiah Berlin Revisited
In this paper I argue that Isaiah Berlin’s theory of freedom should not be
interpreted in a reductive sense. The distinction between negative and
positive freedom, as different concepts and possibly conflicting values,
truly holds (thereby excluding reductive interpretations that claim there
is only one concept of freedom). Moreover, Berlin’s theory as a whole
leaves room for both a comprehensive liberalism which advocates autonomy,
critical reflection and personal judgement, as well as a liberalism of
fear which defends a minimal level of decency and modestly aims at a
modus vivendi (thereby excluding either of these reductive attempts).
I think Berlin’s liberalism is one of hope and fear.