Camila Ortiz de Zevallos
Two Concepts of Liberty:
• 2 systems of ideas which arrive to different and conflicting answers to what has long been the
central question of politics → the question of obedience and coercion: why should I obey anyone
else? Why should I not live as I like? Must I obey? If I disobey will I be coerced? By whom, to
what degree, in the name of what and for the sake of what?
• To coerce a man: to deprive him from his freedom → two views of freedom:
o Negative freedom: political sense of freedom. Involved in the question: what is the area
within the subject is or should be left to do or be as he is able to, without external
o Positive freedom: involved in the question → what or who is the source of control or
interference that can determine someone to do or be one thing rather than other?
• Negative freedom:
o Political liberty is the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others. The wider
the noninterference area, the wider the freedom. If I am prevented by others to do
something that I could otherwise do, I am unfree, and if that area is restricted by other
men, I am being coerced → coercion implies the deliberate interference of other human
beings within the area in which I could otherwise act. Mere incapacity to attain a goal
(such as poverty, disabilities, sickness, etc.), is not a lack of political freedom.
o We must preserve a minimum area of personal freedom if we are not to degrade or deny
our nature. We cannot remain absolutely free, and must give up some of our liberty to
preserve the rest. → What must this minimum be?
o Liberty in the sense of negative freedom means liberty from → absence of interference
beyond the shifting frontier.
o 3 facts about this notion of liberty:
1. Coercion is bad as such although it may have been applied to prevent other
greater evils, while noninterference (the opposite of coercion) is good. Men
should seek to discover the truth or to develop some kind of character such that
truth can be found and that character can be bred →only in conditions of
2. The doctrine is comparatively modern.
3. Liberty in this sense is not incompatible with some kinds of autocracy, or at any
rate with the absence of selfgovernment. → thus, liberty in this sense is
concerned with the area of control and not with its source. → freedom in this
sense is not connected with democracy or self government. Self government
may provide better guarantee of the preservation of civil liberties than in other
regimes, but there is no necessary connection between individual liberty and
• Positive freedom: the positive sense of liberty comes from the wishes of men to be their own
o I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself and not on external forces of whatever
kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own and not of other men’s act of wills, wish to
be a subject, not an object, moved by my reasons.
o I am rational and that is my reason that distinguishes me as a human being from the rest
of the world. I wish, above all, to