Journal of Philosophy

Full of Hope and Fear. The Liberalism of Isaiah Berlin Revisited


Thomas Nys

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


Abstract. 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. Back














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