BOOK REVIEW – Isaiah Berlin
“Two Concepts of Liberty” by Isaiah Berlin, 1958
By Luke Hallam
The twentieth-century thinker Isaiah Berlin was more interested in the history of philosophy than in philosophy per se. His most famous contribution in this vein is his 1958 essay “Two Concepts of Liberty.” On the surface, it is an attempt to distinguish between two types of freedom: one “negative” or “freedom from” and the other “positive” or “freedom to”.
More specifically, however, Berlin is concerned with the vague boundaries that pertain between the two. He focuses his attention on the inherent ambiguities of the concept of freedom itself, suggesting that unless we are clear about what exactly the concept of “liberty” can and cannot do for us, we will end up misusing it, sometimes with devastating consequences.