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Immanuel Kant
John Locke

Empirical freedom whether one must admit to the power

Practical freedom whether ones will can be independent from
coercion or necessitation through impulses
Natural rights civil liberties

B. John Stuart Mill On Liberty

Central idea: harm principle as the source of power of government
Harm principle: Everyone is rightfully warranted for self-protection, and the
only ground for power to be exercised over members of civil society would be to
prevent harm against others
Limitation: not applicable to children, people required to be taken care of
by others, barbarians (lack mature faculty)
Tyranny of majority: the electoral government submitting themselves to the
majority and end up coercing the minorities can even penetrate more into details
of life than tyranny of rulers
Finding of nature and limits of power struggle between liberty and
Liberty is important to safeguard the necessary power from being dangerous
to be tyranny against, limit: (1) political liberties (2) constitution
Election does not bring out liberty tyranny of majority
Human beings are guided by the practical principle of feeling and likings
affecting the rules
Utility is the ultimate guide but harm principles applies it in the largest sense
(external preference utilitarian/ rule utilitarian)
Harm principle could cover inaction but requires more scrutiny
(1) Exclusion of some groups
(2) Every activity carries harm
Self-harm would case harm to others, e.g. resources, emotional damage to
loved ones etc.
(3) Harm principle does not correspond to laws in civil society
Some laws are paternalistic, e.g. R v Brown, competition law (?)
(4) Types of harm
Economic competition is not a harm (as to be good for society)
(5) Harm itself is under the challenge of remoteness and causation
(6) As a consequentialist how to know if that act would cause harm if that has
never happened (?)
Connection with Utilitarianism
Mill considered utility as the ultimate moral guide
I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility
in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interest of man as a progressive

being. Those interests, I contend, authorize the subjection of individual spontaneity to

external control, only in respect to those actions of each, which concern the interest of
other people.
But in essence he adopts utility in the largest sense
Only external preference/rule utilitarianism
Justifies competition

On Liberty is one of Mills most famous works and remains the one most read today.
In this book, Mill expounds his concept of individual freedom within the context of
his ideas on history and the state. On Liberty depends on the idea that society
progresses from lower to higher stages and that this progress culminates in the
emergence of a system of representative democracy. It is within the context of this
form of government that Mill envisions the growth and development of liberty.
Chapter I defines civil liberty as the limit that must be set on societys power over
each individual. Mill undertakes a historical review of the concept of liberty,
beginning with ancient Greece and Rome and proceeding to England. In the past,
liberty meant primarily protection from tyranny.
Over time, the meaning of liberty changed along with the role of rulers, who came to
be seen as servants of the people rather than masters. This evolution brought about a
new problem: the tyranny of the majority, in which a democratic majority forces its
will on the minority. This state of affairs can exercise a tyrannical power even outside
the political realm, when forces such as public opinion stifle individuality and
rebellion. Here, society itself becomes the tyrant by seeking to inflict its will and
values on others.

Next, Mill observes that liberty can be divided into three types, each of which must
be recognized and respected by any free society. First, there is the liberty of thought
and opinion. The second type is the liberty of tastes and pursuits, or the freedom to
plan our own lives. Third, there is the liberty to join other like-minded individuals for
a common purpose that does not hurt anyone. Each of these freedoms negates
societys propensity to compel compliance

Mills critics: everything I do may have results which will harm other human beings.
1) Liberty in general

a) Lack political freedom: is coercion, deliberate interference to prevent from

attaining a goal by human beings. Mere incapacity is not.
b) Importance of Liberty: A frontier must be drawn between the area of private
life and that of public authority. Stems from libertarian principle from mill and
lock that there is a certain minimum area of personal freedom that are sacred,
and shall not be violated from anyone. For example, freedom of expression,
religion, property,etc. these minimum freedom is essential if we are not to
degrade or deny our nature. According to Mill, civilization cannot advance
if there is no liberty. Because Mill says only in conditions of freedom man can
develop critical, original, imaginative, independent character. However, where
to draw the line is a matter of argument.
c) Berlin admits that individual freedom is not every mans primary need. If we
offer political right to man that do not even have sufficient food and clothing
then we would only be mocking their condition. However the minimum
freedom one needs are the same, regardless whether you have in poverty or a
millionaire. The freedom man seek do not differ according to their social or
economic conditions.
d) If individual liberty is an ultimate end for human being, none should be
deprived of it by others. That is equality of liberty. Therefore the minority who
possess liberty should not gain it by exploiting the vast majority who do not.
e) However compulsions can be justified according to both Mill and Berlin.
Since justice demands all individuals to be entitled to a minimum freedom, all
other individuals were necessity to be retrained. (some call it natural rights)
Human sacrifice liberty to co-exist. This can be explained by utilitarian
principle. The loss of liberty can be compensated by a gain in justice and
f) Negative Libert does not necessarily mean democratice gov. Freedom is
not necessarily connected with democracy. Because who governs me and
how far does government interfere with me is logically distinct. One is
positive liberty, one is negative liberty. (corresponds to Mill tyranny of the
majority) the main problem for those who desire negative liberty, individual
freedom is not who wields this authority, but how much authority should be
placed in their hands.
i) As Berlin admits,on the negative view of freedom, I am

free even if I live in a dictatorship just as long as the

dictator happens, on a whim, not to interfere with me
(see also Hayek 1960). There is no necessary
connection between negative freedom and any
particular form of government.
ii) Other theorists of freedom have remained closer to the

negative conception of freedom but have attempted to

go beyond it, saying that freedom is not merely the

enjoyment of a sphere of noninterference but the

enjoyment of certain conditions in which such noninterference is guaranteed (see especially Pettit 1997,
2001, and Skinner 1998, 2002). These conditions may
include the presence of a democratic constitution and
a series of safeguards against a government wielding
power arbitrarily, including the exercise of civic virtues
on the part of citizens
iii) Freedom is not simply a matter of non-interference, for

a slave may enjoy a great deal of non-interference at

the whim of her master. What makes her unfree is her
status, such that she is permanently liable to
interference of any kind. Even if the slave enjoys noninterference, she is, as Pettit puts it, dominated,
because she is permanently subject to the arbitrary
power of her owner. Contemporary republicans
therefore claim that their view of freedom is quite
distinct from the negative view of freedom.
a) However the very least liberty of religion, expression, property must be
guaranteed against arbitrary invasion.
b) Liberty and utilitarianism
c) Therefore oppose paternalism: because it is to treat men as if they were not
2) Positive and Negative Liberty
a) Negative Liberty:
i) Negative liberty means absence of obstacles and interference external to
the agent. One is free if no one is stopping him from doing whatever he
wants to do. It answers the question what is the area within which the
subject is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without
interference by other persons?.
ii) Berlin disagree what Mill defined as negative liberty. Mill defined
negative liberty as the ability to do what one wishes. If being free meant
being from realizing one s desires, then one could reduce ones unfreedom
by desiring fewer things. No doubt the man will FEEL free, but it is not
true freedom. To liberate oneself from desires that he knows he cannot
realize, one determines himself not to desire what is unattainable. It is like
a retreat to the inner citadel. It is like to eliminate the obstacles in my
path by abandoning the path. But this is not freedom, and it risks masking
important forms of opporession.

b) Positive Liberty:
i) Positive liberty means the presence of control, self-directive INTERNAL
to the part of the agent. That means one must be able to control his own
destiny in his own interests. That means man wants his life and decisions
to depend on himself (internal), not on external forces, to being his own
master. It answers the question what or who is the source of control or
interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than
(1) Be independent, free of control: but may I not be a slave to nature? This
dominant self is then variously identified with reason, with my 'higher nature', with
the self which calculates and aims at what will satisfy it in the long run, with my
'real', or 'ideal', or 'autonomous' self, or with my self 'at its best' which is then
contrasted with irrational impulse, uncontrolled desires, my 'lower' nature, the pursuit
of immediate pleasures, my 'empirical' or 'heteronomous' self 'higher' freedom: to
coerce men in the name of some goal

i) A slippery slope of positive liberty: To some extent, being ones mater

means that to be ones real or higher self, but not the lower self being
driven by uncontrolled desires. The lower-self pursuits immediate
pleasures and is swept by desire and passion. However this notion if
liberty is very dangerous because it can be used to justify coercion of
others to raise them to a higher level of freedom. They are in position to
ignore the wishes of men or societies, to bully and oppress them in the
name of true freedom. It is okay to say that I may be coerced for my
own good, but not okay to say if it is for my good, then I am not being
b) Analogy of +/- freedom: One analogy is driving a car. At a crossroad When
You choose to turn left, no one was forcing you to go one way or another. In
this case the driver is completely free. But if the reason the driver turn left is
that he is addicted to cigarettes and he is desperate to get to the tobacconists,
then his urge to smoke lead him uncontrollably to turn left. Moreover, he is
aware that if he turn left he will probably miss a train. In this sense he is not
free because this irrational desire is stopping him from what he should be
c) The word liberty must include a minimum of negative liberty. But some (e.g.
fathers of liberalism: Mill and Constant) want more than this minimum.
d) The chief value for liberals of political positive rights (of participating in
government) is as means for protecting an ultimate value of negative liberty.
e) Berlin: because the concept of negative freedom concentrates on the external
sphere in which individuals interact, it would provide a better guarantee
against the dangers of paternalism and authoritarianism perceived by Berlin.
2) The retreat to inner citadel:

a) If freedom = unprevented from realizing ones desires, can one be more free
by desire fewer things?
i) Negative theorist says no. a salve is not free. Happy =/= free.
ii) Positive theorist says yes: salve is indeed free. Berlin: it is like cutting off
my wounded leg.
3) The tempo of sarastro:
a) Children are not salves because although they are coerced, they obey orders
given in their own interest. Similarly, subject of a true commonweal is not
salve because the common interest will include his own. (the tempo of
b) A rational judge will send you to prison because it is evidence that you have
not listened to your own inner reason, like a child, so you are not free of selfdirection, or permanently incapable of it.
4) How can a society be truly free?
a) The chief value for liberals of political positive rights (of participating in
government) is as means for protecting an ultimate value of negative liberty.
b) No society is free unless it is governed by two interrelated principles: (1) no
power but only rights can be absolute. (2) there are frontiers, not artificially
drawn, within which men should be inviolable
5) One concept of liberty:
a) American legal philosopher Gerald MacCallum (1967) put

forward that there is in fact only one basic concept of

freedom, on which both sides in the debate converge.
MacCallum defines the basic concept of freedom as
follows: a subject, or agent, is free from certain
constraints, or preventing conditions, to do or become
certain things. Any statement about freedom or
unfreedom can be translated into a statement of triadic
relation by specifying what is free or unfree, from what it
is free or unfree, and what it is free or unfree to do or
Possibility of fusing positive and negative liberty
A single formulation an agent, certain preventing conditions, and certain
doings or becomings of the agent
Every act carries consequence to the positive and negative freedom
They would eventually lead to the same consequence limitation of freedom

b) Positive camp more extensive. (see leaflet)

Positive liberty
Freedom from
What is left to be free to do?
Maximum liberty in the absence of
external obstacles
More dangerous
Authoritarian (by ignoring others)
Easier for powers to manipulate by
giving the false impression to freedom I
will make you free

Negative liberty
Freedom to
Who is the master?
Presence of internal self-control/selfmastery
Less dangerous

Liberty Q
1. How have legal theorists tried to repair the defects of Bentham's
Utilitarianism? How successful are these attempts? (2014)
2. Describe Isiah Berlin's distinction between positive and negative liberty. Do
you think it a convincing distinction? Why? (2014)
3. What is liberty? Is Berlin's distinction of negative and positive concepts of
liberty correct? (2012)
4. 'The desire to be governed by myself, or at any rate to participate in the
process by which my life is to be controlled, may be as deep a wish as that of a
free area for action, and perhaps historically older. But it is not a desire for the
same thing. '
Isaiah Berlin, 'Two Concepts of Liberty,'
Critically discuss. (2013)

Are the negative and positive concepts of liberty mutually exclusive, so that
people using them are talking past each other?
Can we capture both positive and negative liberty in X is (is not) free from y
to do (not do, become, not become) Z
Liberty and rights: is the idea of rights at its most basic better captured
by negative or by positive liberty?
What are rights? What is liberty? How, if at all, are right and liberties
Does Isaiah Berlins distinction of Two Concepts of Liberty make sense?
Which concept of liberty, if any, does Berlin favour? Do you agree with