From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Negative liberty was a society deliberately without ideals, other than individuals desires and the freedom to indulge them. [...] By counterposing negative liberty to positive liberty with its inevitable horrors, Berlin was saying, that this [of negative liberty] kind of society was the only safe alternative for the West in the Cold War." --The Trap (2007) by Adam Curtis
"The perils of using organic metaphors to justify the coercion of some men by others in order to raise them to a 'higher' level of freedom have often been pointed out." --Two Concepts of Liberty (1958) by Isaiah Berlin
Broadly speaking, liberty (Latin: Libertas) is the ability to do as one pleases. In politics, liberty consists of the social, political, and economic freedoms to which all community members are entitled. In philosophy, liberty involves free will as contrasted with determinism.
Sometimes liberty is differentiated from freedom by using the word "freedom" primarily, if not exclusively, to mean the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; and using the word "liberty" to mean the absence of arbitrary restraints, taking into account the rights of all involved. In this sense, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others.
Thus liberty entails the responsible use of freedom under the rule of law without depriving anyone else of their freedom. Freedom is more broad in that it represents a total lack of restraint or the unrestrained ability to fulfill one's desires. For example, a person can have the freedom to murder, but not have the liberty to murder, as the latter example deprives others of their right not to be harmed. Liberty can be taken away as a form of punishment. In many countries, people can be deprived of their liberty if they are convicted of criminal acts.
The word "liberty" is often used in slogans, such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"
Philosophers from earliest times have considered the question of liberty. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD) wrote:
- "a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed."
According to Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679):
- "a free man is he that in those things which by his strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do."--Leviathan, Part 2, Ch. XXI.}
John Locke (1632–1704) rejected that definition of liberty. While not specifically mentioning Hobbes, he attacks Sir Robert Filmer who had the same definition. According to Locke:
- "In the state of nature, liberty consists of being free from any superior power on Earth. People are not under the will or lawmaking authority of others but have only the law of nature for their rule. In political society, liberty consists of being under no other lawmaking power except that established by consent in the commonwealth. People are free from the dominion of any will or legal restraint apart from that enacted by their own constituted lawmaking power according to the trust put in it. Thus, freedom is not as Sir Robert Filmer defines it: 'A liberty for everyone to do what he likes, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws.' Freedom is constrained by laws in both the state of nature and political society. Freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature. Freedom of people under government is to be under no restraint apart from standing rules to live by that are common to everyone in the society and made by the lawmaking power established in it. Persons have a right or liberty to (1) follow their own will in all things that the law has not prohibited and (2) not be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, and arbitrary wills of others." --Two Treatises on Government: A Translation into Modern English, ISR, 2009, p. 76
John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), in his work, On Liberty, was the first to recognize the difference between liberty as the freedom to act and liberty as the absence of coercion. In his book Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin formally framed the differences between these two perspectives as the distinction between two opposite concepts of liberty: positive liberty and negative liberty. The latter designates a negative condition in which an individual is protected from tyranny and the arbitrary exercise of authority, while the former refers to the liberty that comes from self-mastery, the freedom from inner compulsions such as weakness and fear.
- Civil liberties
- Free will
- Gratis versus Libre
- Liberté, égalité, fraternité
- Liberty (goddess)
- List of freedom indices
- Political freedom
- Real freedom
- Rule according to higher law