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PHL271H1 Lecture Notes - Positive Liberty, Negative Liberty, Liberal Democracy

Course Code
Jacob Weinrib

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Negative liberty = freedom from...*look on slides*
Positive liberty = freedom to...
The Danger of Positive Liberty
Positive liberty seems to refer to your higher self...what you really want. What is truly
your inner self (and apparently that is dangerous politically)
Every tyrannical regime makes this “positive liberty” argument “a specious disguise for
brutal tyranny”
I’m not “constraining” your freedom, I am “realizing”
Berlin is a direct opponent of positive liberty. His position is that positive liberty is some-
times dangerous.
(pp.168-169) talking in a time of civil rights movements as well as liberal democracy so
that people don’t starve (rights and etc)
Mill thinks the ultimate good is positive liberty and that it can only be realized in the
wake of negative liberty.
How should we distinguish legitimate from illegitimate appeals to positive liberty?
Human beings can determine their own purposes for themselves, the state provides cer-
tain types of good to protect your liberty and to help you pursue your purposes
Is negative liberty ever dangerous?
Mill: individual can engage in any action that doesnt harm anyone else (its a thesis on
negative liberty)
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