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What's Wrong with Negative Liberty?

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Taylor Mangan

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of What's Wrong with Negative Liberty?

What's Wrong with Negative Liberty?
Charles Taylor
What is Liberty?
Often utilized interrelated with the term freedom

Signifies freedom, independence, free will, sovereignty & choice

Many arguments exist that focus on what the real meaning of the term is.
Presentation By:
Taylor Mangan
Taylor Best
Samuel Manning
Thomas Mulvaney
Charles Margrave Taylor
Born November 5, 1981
Canadian philosopher
Studied at the University of Oxford
Awarded a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford in 1961
Known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, and intellectual history
Won the Templeton Prize in 2007
Won the Kyoto Prize in June 2008
Negative Liberty:
Positive Liberty:
Freedom from
external restraint
One of the most famous attempts to define freedom is made by Sir Isaiah Berlin in his essay "Two Concepts of Liberty"
Sir Isaiah Berlin's essay "Two Concepts of Liberty" distinguishes two different conceptions of freedom, positive and negative liberty.
Positive Liberty vs
Negative Liberty
Possession of power and
resources to fulfill one's
own potential
What's Wrong with Negative Liberty
By Charles Taylor
Taylor criticizes the consistency and rationality of the conception of negative liberty in "What's Wrong with Negative Liberty?" published in 1995

Liberal conception of positive liberty, like Berlin outlines, slides into caricature easily in that most positive conceptions do not exist purely and simply in the collective control over common life (142)

Negative liberty is indefensible because freedom cannot just be denoted as the lack of many external obstacles (lack of awareness and repression) because there are internal obstacles that need to be considered too

Nothing in the idea of negative liberty prevents it from including the possibility of internal obstacles
Internal Obstacles
Internal (negative) obstacles to freedom besides gross external obstacles – lack of awareness, false consciousness, repression.

Taylor says: The “post-Romantic idea that each person’s form of self-realization is original to him/her, and therefore can only be worked out independently”
This all depends on how individual people see themselves, so there's different conflicts for different people.
The "Maginot Line"
If we adopt a view of liberty that involves self-realization, then we have to discriminate among various forms of self- realization, including forms of collective self-realization (nations, classes). So, for some liberals (e.g., Berlin):

“It seems safer and easier to cut all the nonsense off at the start by declaring all self-realization views to be metaphysical hogwash.” (100)

The alternative would be to allow “second-guessing the subject” – i.e., to accept that people can be mistaken about their desires, goals or aspirations.
Taylor says that evaluative reasons, are what negative accounts leave out:

Human beings are purposive, we assign value to things and states of affairs...and also have second order desires – desires about desires
 In evaluative terms, not all opportunities are equal of equal value.
Full transcript