develop your own definition of freedom(this definition can be reflected through one or more of the texts, and it does not need to be the final
For this assignment, you will be writing a literary research paper that allows you to:
- develop your own definition of freedom(this definition can be reflected through one or more of the texts, and it does not need to be the final philosophical word on“freedom”) and,
- apply that definition to two of the texts studied this semester, one of which will bea title from the required texts below. The work you analyzed in your previous paper is excluded from this assignment.
This will be a comparison paperusing your definition of freedomand a common theme between the two texts.
- ● You will support your thesis with 4 peer-reviewed scholarly articles.
- ● You are encouraged to utilize the Writing Center or tutoring center in the drafting stages.
- ● We will be reviewing your Paper Proposalbased on this prompt during our one-on-onetutorials in which you will review the use of literary sources, thesis and draft development, and the elements of literary argumentation.
- ● Choose one of the following titles:Required Text Options (pair up with any other required text this semester):
- ● Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,
- ● “The Grand Inquisitor,” or● Homegoing(Note: Again, you may not write about the same text that you wrote about in your first major paper.)
Isiah Berlin’s Conception of Freedom
Everybody wants their freedom. Wars have been fought through the centuries in the name of freedom. The concept of freedom is universal, but its understanding does not seem as unanimous. Different people seem to mean different things when they speak about freedom. This paper wishes to answer the question of whether there are different kinds of freedom and if they are in conflict with each other.
Isaiah Berlin, a political philosopher who lived in the 20th century, thought that there are two types of freedom. In his book “Two Concepts of Liberty” he said that there exists negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom is the absence of interference and obstacles. You have negative freedom as long as people do not interfere with what you do or what you can do. When other people restrict what you can do either by doing something to directly limit your actions or indirectly by making laws or making social and economic decisions that are disadvantageous to you, then they limit your negative freedom. Berlin, however, stressed that only restrictions that other people placed could be counted as limitations of freedom implying that natural phenomenon does not count as such. The inability of people to fly, for example, is a physical limitation, but it is not a limitation to people’s freedom. Most people are in agreement that our negative freedom must have some restrictions. Countries have some sort of system of law in
place that helps them live in a functional society. These restrictions are acceptable because they come with benefits such as peace and security. There are, however, areas of our lives that we demand to have complete freedom over. Berlin said regarding the question that negative freedom seeks to answer, “What is the area within which the subject- a person or group of persons- is or should be left to do what is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?” (Berlin pp. 121). There are countless discussions on whether there should be boundaries to personal negative freedom in the field of political philosophy.
While negative freedom is freedom from being controlled by others, positive freedom is the freedom to control yourself. Berlin said that this concept is used to answer the question, “What or who is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, to be, this rather than that?” (Berlin pp. 121). People who consider themselves are positively free are those who are their own masters—those who do not suffer from obstacles set by other people. Positive freedom can be seen as a counter to negative freedom, but there is a disjoint between the two. People are not always rational beings, and a lack of interference from other people does not always lead to mastery of oneself. Addicts who cannot stop abusing drugs are not under anyone’s control as no one forces them to take drugs, but they are not acting in their best interest. They have negative freedom, but they are not positively free.
For such cases, Berlin suggests using two selves: an irrational and impulsive self-known as the lower self and a rational and far-sighted self, which is referred to as a higher or ‘real’ self. Berlin states that a person can be positively free only if their higher self is dominant. This assessment thus argues that some interference may be necessary to make people positively free. It shows that there are cases when limiting a person’s negative freedom is necessary to increase their positive freedom. This view is, however, very easily abused and used to justify actions that have maligned intentions. (Berlin pp. 126)
Berlin observed that the gap that exists between negative and positive freedom would increase, and the risk of abuse that this up brings about increases if the higher self is identified with a group of people. Berlin stated that in the fights for positive freedom, defenders may need to merge their higher self with that of other individuals within a social whole, “a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and yet unborn.” In this case, the interests of an individual have to align with those of the group, and if they do not, that individual is to be coerced into acting in the best interest of the group. Berlin argued that if those individuals were acting rationally, they would not fight the needs of the social group. To quote Berlin, “Once I take this view, I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf of their ‘real’ selves in the secure knowledge that what is the true goal of man must be identical with his freedom.” (Berlin pp. 132-133)
Berlin noted how this concept had been abused by the twentieth-century totalitarian dictators, especially the Soviet Union. They used to it to proclaim that they and not the liberal West were the true champions of freedom. He acknowledged that these concepts of positive freedom could be and had been abused. He, however, clarified that this does not mean that promoting positive freedom is always wrong. People sometimes need to be pushed to act in their best interest. The addict, in our example, must be institutionalized in order to stop abusing drugs. The main rationale behind compulsory education is the need to push people to do what is best for them. In the case of children being obligated to go to school, children are not aware of what they need, and thus to leave them to decide what to do would amount to neglect and abuse. (Berlin pp. 129) Berlin notes of another more extreme case of positive freedom, which involves cutting oneself completely away from any form of external influence. To achieve this, individuals must not only learn how to control their desires, but they must cut them away completely. This state demands that an individual cut themselves off of as many of their desires as possible. Berlin put it as, “if I have a wounded leg, there are two methods of freeing myself from pain. One is to heal the wound, but if that is too difficult or uncertain, there is another method. I can get rid of the wound by cutting off my leg.” (Berlin pp. 135-136). Just as Berlin’s example, this state of being is very difficult to achieve.
This becomes a paradox because for a person to ensure that they were not affected by outside forces, they would also lose themselves in the process. They would have to rid themselves of all ties they had with other people, which is an essential part of who they are. They would have to stop fighting for the causes they believed in. In an effort to have complete control over who themselves, they would lose who they are. This state can, therefore, not be achieved. People can only pretend to live in this state. Pretend that they do not have any desires. Pretend that they do not wish to interact with their family and friends. Pretend that they don’t care about the causes they used to fight for. This is not freedom in any form of the word.
In conclusion, the promotion of negative freedom means the promotion of a person’s sovereignty over their actions. It means that people can do whatever they want to do as long as they don’t interfere with the negative freedom of another person. People have to be left to discover who they are. To discover what fulfills them and what they want to do with their lives. They have to be left to grow at their own pace as long as they are not harming anyone. Positive freedom should only come in when individuals become a danger to themselves and to others. If they abuse their negative freedom or that of others, then their actions need to be obstructed. This is the importance of laws and government.
this is my first major paper
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