The Power and Freedom of the Human Spirit: Introducing Another Theory of Everything

Hegel’s Aesthetics
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  5. Two concepts of freedom. We may, perhaps, see the ideal of Reason actualized in those who adopt such aims and in the spheres of their influence; but their number is small in proportion to the mass of the human race and their influence accordingly limited. Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires are, on the contrary, tremendous springs of action.

Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which law and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses are closer to the core of human nature than the artificial and troublesome discipline that tends toward order, self-restraint, law, and morality. When we contemplate this display of passions and the consequences of their violence, the unreason which is associated not only with them, but even — rather we might say specially — with good designs and righteous aims; when we see arising therefrom the evil, the vice, the ruin that has befallen the most flourishing kingdoms which the mind of man ever created, we can hardly avoid being filled with sorrow this universal taint of corruption.

And since this decay is not the work of mere nature, but of human will, our reflections may well lead us to a moral sadness, a revolt of the good will spirit — if indeed it has a place within us. Without rhetorical exaggeration, a simple, truthful account of the miseries that have overwhelmed the noblest of nations and polities and the finest exemplars of private virtue forms a most fearful picture and excites emotions of the profoundest and most hopeless sadness, counter-balanced by no consoling result.

We can endure it and strengthen ourselves against it only by thinking that this is the way it had to be — it is fate; nothing can be done. And at last, out of the boredom with which this sorrowful reflection threatens us, we draw back into the vitality of the present, into our aims and interests of the moment; we retreat, in short, into the selfishness that stands on the quiet shore and thence enjoys in safety the distant spectacle of wreckage and confusion. But in contemplating history as the slaughter-bench at which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of states, and the virtue of individuals have been sacrificed, a question necessarily arises: To what principle, to what final purpose, have these monstrous sacrifices been offered?

From here one usually proceeds to the starting point of our investigation: the events which make up this picture of gloomy emotion and thoughtful reflection are only the means for realizing the essential destiny, the absolute and final purpose, or, what amounts to the same thing, the true result of world history. We have all along purposely eschewed that method of reflection which ascends from this scene of particulars to general principles. Besides, it is not in the interest of such sentimental reflections really to rise above these depressing emotions and to solve the mysteries of Providence presented in such contemplations.

It is rather their nature to dwell melancholically on the empty and fruitless sublimities of their negative result. For this reason we return to our original point of view, What we shall have to say about it will also answer the questions put to us by this panorama of history. The first thing we notice — something which has been stressed more than once before but which cannot be repeated too often, for it belongs to the central point of our inquiry — is the merely general and abstract nature of what we call principle, final purpose, destiny, or the nature and concept of Spirit. A principle, a law is something implicit, which as such, however true in itself, is not completely real actual.

Purposes, principles, and the like, are at first in our thoughts, our inner intention. They are not yet in reality. That which is in itself is a possibility, a faculty. It has not yet emerged out of its implicitness into existence. A second element must be added for it to become reality, namely, activity, actualization. The activity which puts them in operation and in existence is the need, the instinct, the inclination, and passion of man.

When I have an idea I am greatly interested in transforming it into action, into actuality. In its realization through my participation I want to find my own satisfaction. A purpose for which I shall be active must in some way be my purpose; I must thereby satisfy my own desires, even though it may have ever so many aspects which do not concern me.

This is the infinite right of the individual to find itself satisfied in its activity and labor. Their feelings of self-importance must be satisfied. But here a misunderstanding must be avoided. Indeed, the blame implies not only his disregard of the common interest, but his taking advantage of it and even his sacrificing it to his own interest.

Nothing therefore happens, nothing is accomplished, unless those concerned with an issue find their own satisfaction in it. They are particular individuals; they have their special needs, instincts, and interests. They have their own particular desires and volitions, their own insight and conviction, or at least their own attitude and opinion, once the aspirations to reflect, understand, and reason have been awakened. Therefore people demand that a cause for which they should be active accord with their ideas.

And they expect their opinion — concerning its goodness, justice, advantage, profit — to be taken into account. We assert then that nothing has been accomplished without an interest on the part of those who brought it about. Two elements therefore enter into our investigation: first, the Idea, secondly, the complex of human passions; the one the warp, the other the woof of the vast tapestry of world history. Their contact and concrete union constitutes moral liberty in the state.

We have already spoken of the Idea of freedom as the essence of Spirit and absolutely final purpose of history. Passion is regarded as something wrong, something more or less evil; man is not supposed to have passions. I mean here nothing more than human activity resulting from private interest, from special or, if you will, self-seeking designs — with this qualification: that the whole energy of will and character is devoted to the attainment of one aim and that other interests or possible aims, indeed everything else, is sacrificed to this aim.

It is that which makes the person what he is. For a person is a specific existence. He is not man in general — such a thing does not exist — but a particular human being. But character comprises all individual features whatever — the way in which a person conducts himself in his private and other relations. It does not connote this individuality itself in its practical and active phase. Passion is thus the subjective and therefore the formal aspect, of energy, will, and activity, whose content and aim are at this point still undetermined.

And a similar relation exists between individual conviction, insight, and conscience, on the one hand, and their content, on the other. If someone wants to decide whether my conviction and passion are true and substantial, he must consider the content of my conviction and the aim of my passion.

Conversely, if they are true and substantial, they cannot help but attain actual existence. From this comment on the second essential element in the historical embodiment of an aim, we infer — considering for a moment the institution of the state — that a state is then well constituted and internally vigorous when the private interest of its citizens is one with the common interest of the state, and the one finds gratification and realization in the other — a most important proposition.

But in a state many institutions are necessary — inventions, appropriate arrangements, accompanied by long intellectual struggles in order to find out what is really appropriate, as well as struggles with private interests and passions, which must be harmonized in difficult and tedious discipline. When a state reaches this harmony, it has reached the period of its bloom, its excellence, its power and prosperity. But world history does not begin with any conscious aim, as do the particular circles of men.

Already the simple instinct of living together contains the conscious purpose of securing life and property; once this primal society has been established, the purpose expands. But world history begins its general aim — to realize the idea of Spirit — only in an implicit form an sich , namely, as Nature — as an innermost, unconscious instinct. And the whole business of history, as already observed, is to bring it into consciousness. These vast congeries of volitions, interests, and activities constitute the tools and means of the World Spirit for attaining its purpose, bringing it to consciousness, and realizing it.

And this purpose is none other than finding itself — coming to itself — and contemplating itself in concrete actuality. But one may indeed question whether those manifestations of vitality on the part of individuals and peoples in which they seek and satisfy their own purposes are, at the same time, the means and tools of a higher and broader purpose of which they know nothing, which they realize unconsciously. In relation to this Reason, which is universal and substantial, in and for itself, all else is subordinate, subservient, and the means for its actualization.

Moreover, this Reason is immanent in historical existence and reaches its own perfection in and through this existence. The union of the abstract universal, existing in and for itself, with the particular or subjective, and the fact that this union alone constitutes truth are a matter of speculative philosophy which, in this general form, is treated in logic.

But in its historical development [ the subjective side, consciousness, is not yet able to know what is ] the abstract final aim of history, the idea of Spirit, for it is then itself in process and incomplete. The idea of Spirit is not yet its distinct object of desire and interest. Thus desire is still unconscious of its purpose; yet it already exists in the particular purposes and realizes itself through them.

The problem concerning the union of the general and the subjective may also be raised under the form of the union of freedom and necessity. Since, as was said, the speculative, that is, the conceptual aspect of this connection belongs to logic, it would be out of place to analyze it here.

But the chief and cardinal points may be mentioned. The Idea has within itself the determination of its self-consciousness, of activity. It still lacks at this point the form of being which is actuality. It still is the universal, the immanent, the represented. The second stage begins when the Idea satisfies the contrast which originally is only ideally in it and posits the difference between itself in its free universal mode, in which it remains within itself, and itself as purely abstract reflection in itself.

Thus it becomes Ego, which, as an atom indivisible , opposes itself to all content and thus is the most complete antithesis — the antithesis, namely, of the whole plenitude of the Idea. The absolute Idea is thus, on the one hand, substantial fullness of content and, on the other hand, abstract free volition.

God and universe have separated, and set each other as opposites. Consciousness, the Ego, has a being such that the other everything else is for it its object. In developing this train of thought one arrives at the creation of free spirits, the world, and so on. The absolute antithesis, the atom i. It is for itself in actuality merely exclusion of its antithesis the absolute Idea.

It is its limit and barrier. Thus it is the Absolute itself become finite. Reflection in itself, individual self-consciousness, is the antithesis of the absolute Idea and hence the Idea in absolute finiteness. This finitude, the acme of freedom, this formal knowledge when referred to the glory of God as to the absolute Idea which recognizes what ought to be — is the soil on which the spiritual element of knowledge as such is falling; thus it constitutes the absolute aspect of its actuality, though it remains merely formal.

The Divine, and hence religion, exists for the Ego, and likewise also the world in general, that is, the universal totality of finite existence, exists for the Ego. The Ego, in this relation, is itself its own finiteness and comprehends itself as finite. Thus it is the viewpoint of finite purposes, of mere appearance. At the same time it is particularity of consciousness. Consciousness in itself, freedom abstractly considered, is the formal aspect of the activity of the absolute Idea. This self-consciousness, first of all, wills itself in general and, secondly, wills itself in every particular.

This self-knowing subjectivity projects itself into all objectivity. The Ego thus wills itself primarily not as conscious but as finite in its immediacy.

This is the sphere of its phenomenality. It wills itself in its particularity. At this point we find the passions, where individuality realizes its particularity. If it succeeds in thus realizing its finiteness, it doubles itself its potential finiteness becomes actual finiteness. Through this reconciliation of the atom and its othernesses individuals are what we call happy, for happy is he who is in harmony with himself. One may contemplate history from the point of view of happiness.

Noam Chomsky

But actually history is not the soil of happiness. The periods of happiness are blank pages in it. There is, it is true, satisfaction in world history. But it is not the kind that is called happiness, for it is satisfaction of purposes that are above particular interests. Purposes that are relevant for world history must be grasped in abstract volition and with energy.

The world-historical individuals who have pursued such purposes have satisfied themselves, it is true, but they did not want to be happy. This element of abstract action is to be regarded as the bond, the middle term, between the universal Idea, which reposes in the inner recesses of Spirit, and the external world. It is that which carries the Idea from its immanence into its external state. Universality, in being externalized, is at the same time made particular. The immanent by itself would be dead, abstract. Through action it becomes existent.

Conversely, activity elevates the empty objectivity of nature to be the appearance of the essence which is in and for itself. In world history we deal with the Idea as it manifests itself in the element of human will, of human freedom. Objectively seen, the Idea and the particular individual stand in the great opposition of Necessity and Freedom — the struggle of man against fate.

But we take necessity not as the external necessity of fate, but as that of the divine Idea. The question then is: How is this high Idea to be united with human freedom? The will of the individual is free when it can posit abstractly, absolutely, and in and for itself that which it wills. How then can the universal, the rational in general, be determinant in history? This contradiction cannot be clarified here in complete detail. But think of the following:. The flame consumes the air; it is nourished by wood.

The air is the sole condition for the growing of trees. And yet oxygen continues in the air and the trees do not cease to grow green. So also when someone starts building a house, his decision to do so is freely made. But all the elements must help. And yet the house is being built to protect man against the elements.

Hence the elements are here used against themselves. But the general law of nature is not disturbed thereby. The building of a house is, in the first instance, a subjective aim and design. On the other hand we have, as means, the several substances required for the work — iron, wood, stones. The elements are used in preparing this material: fire to melt the iron, wind to blow the fire, water to set wheels in motion in order to cut the wood, etc.

The result is that the wind, which has helped to build the house, is shut out by the house; so also are the violence of rains and floods and the destructive powers of fire, so far as the house is made fire-proof. The stones and beams obey the law of gravity and press downwards so that the high walls are held up. Thus the elements are made use of in accordance with their nature and cooperate for a product by which they become constrained. In a similar way. Thus they fortify a structure for law and order against themselves. Thus the passions are by no means always opposed to morality but actualize the universal.

As far as their own morality is concerned, it is true, they strive to realize their own interests. Thus they appear bad and self-seeking. But action is always individual; it is always I who act. It is my purpose which I want to fulfill. This purpose may be a good one, a universal aim; on the other hand, the interest may be a particular, a private one.

This does not mean that it is necessarily opposed to the universal good. On the contrary, the universal must be actualized through the particular. This connection implies that human actions in history produce additional results, beyond their immediate purpose and attainment, beyond their immediate knowledge and desire.

They gratify their own interests; but something more is thereby accomplished, which is latent in the action though not present in their consciousness and not included in their design. The deed immediately establishes a train of circumstances not directly connected with it, taken in itself. In itself it consists in merely presenting a small flame to a small portion of a beam. Events not involved in that simple act follow of themselves.

The part of the beam which was set afire is connected with its remote portions; the beam itself is united with the woodwork of the house and this with other houses, and a wide conflagration ensues. It destroys the goods and chattels of many other persons besides those of the original victim and may even cost their lives. This lay neither in the deed itself, nor in the design of the man who committed it. But the action has a further general bearing. In the design of the doer it was only revenge executed against an individual through the destruction of his property.

But it is moreover a crime, and that involves punishment. All this may not have been present to the mind of the perpetrator, still less in his intention; but his deed itself, the general principles that it calls into play, its substantial content, entail it.

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By this example I wish only to impress on you the consideration that in a simple act something further may be implicated than lies in the intention and consciousness of the agent. The example before us involves, however, this additional consideration, that the substance of the act — consequently we may say the act itself — recoils upon the perpetrator, reacts upon him and destroys him.

This union of the two extremes — the embodiment of a general idea in immediate actuality and the elevation of a particularity into universal truth — comes about under the condition of the diversity and mutual indifference of the two extremes. The human agents have before them limited aims, special interests. But they are also intelligent, thinking beings. Their purposes are interwoven with general and essential considerations of law, the good, duty, etc. For mere desire, volition in its raw and savage form, falls outside the scene and sphere of world history.

These general considerations, which at the same time form norms for directing purposes and actions, have a definite content. If men are to act, they must not only intend the good but must know whether this or that particular course is good. What special course of action is good or not, right or wrong, is determined, for the ordinary circumstances of private life, by the laws and customs of a state.

Soul - Wikipedia

It is not too difficult to know them. It is part of the freedom in the state The morality of the individual, then, consists in his fulfilling the duties of his social position. And it is an easy matter to know what these duties are; they are determined by this position. The substantial content of such a relationship, its rationale, is known. It is, precisely, what is called duty. Each individual has his position; he knows, on the whole, what a lawful and honorable course of conduct is. To assert in ordinary private relations that it is difficult to choose the right and good, and to regard it as mark of an exalted morality to find difficulties and raise scruples on that score indicates an evil and perverse will.

It indicates a will that seeks to evade obvious duties or, at least, a petty will that gives its mind too little to do. The mind, then, in idle reflection, busies itself with itself and indulges in moral smugness. The essence of a moral relation lies in the substantial nature that duty indicates. Thus, the nature of the relation between children and parents simply lies in the duty to behave accordingly. Or, to mention a legal relationship, if I owe money to someone, I just have to act according to law and the nature of the relation and return the money.

There is nothing problematic in all this. The basis of duty is the civil life: the individuals have their assigned business and hence their assigned duties. Their morality consists in acting accordingly. But each individual is also the child of a people at a definite stage of its development. One cannot skip over the spirit of his people any more than one can skip over the earth.

The earth is the center of gravity; a body imagined as leaving this center can only be imagined as exploding into the air. So it is with an individual. But only through his own effort can he be in harmony with his substance; he must bring the will demanded by his people to his own consciousness, to articulation.

Language and Freedom

The individual does not invent his own content; he is what he is by acting out the universal as his own content. This universal content everyone must activate within himself. Through this activity he maintains the whole of ethical life. But there is another element active in history which does bring about just this difficulty of acting according to ethical norms. We saw earlier, in the discussion of the dialectic of the Idea, where this universal content originates. It cannot originate within the ethical community. There particular events may occur that violate its determinate universality, such as vice, fraud, and the like, which are suppressed.

But a moral whole, as such, is limited. It must have above it a higher universality, which makes it disunited in itself. The transition from one spiritual pattern to the next is just this, that the former moral whole, in itself a universal, through being thought in terms of the higher universal , is abolished as a particular. The later universal, so to speak, the next higher genus of the preceding species, is potentially but not yet actually present in the preceding one. This makes all existing reality unstable and disunited.

In the course of history two factors are important. One is the preservation of a people, a state, of the well-ordered spheres of life. This is the activity of individuals participating in the common effort and helping to bring about its particular manifestations. It is the preservation of ethical life. The other important factor, however, is the decline of a state. The existence of a national spirit is broken when it has used up and exhausted itself. World history, the World Spirit, continues on its course.

We cannot deal here with the position of the individuals within the moral whole and their moral conduct and duty. But this development is connected with the degradation, destruction, annihilation of the preceding mode of actuality which the concept of the Spirit had evolved. This is the result, on the one hand, of the inner development of the Idea and, on the other, of the activity of individuals, who are its agents and bring about its actualization.

It is at this point that appear those momentous collisions between existing, acknowledged duties, laws, and rights and those possibilities which are adverse to this system, violate it, and even destroy its foundations and existence. Their tenor may nevertheless seem good, on the whole advantageous — yes, even indispensable and necessary. These possibilities now become historical fact; they involve a universal of an order different from that upon which depends the permanence of a people or a state.

This universal is an essential phase in the development of the creating Idea, of truth striving and urging toward itself. The historical men, world-historical individuals, are those who grasp just such a higher universal, make it their own purpose, and realize this purpose in accordance with the higher law of the spirit. Caesar was such a man.

Before reaching his position of superiority he was in danger of losing his place of equality with the other leaders of Rome. He was about to succumb to those who were just becoming his enemies. These enemies, who at the same time pursued their own personal interests, had on their side the formal constitution of Rome and the power of legal appearance. Caesar fought to keep his position, honor, and safety. But victory over his enemies, who held the power over all the Roman provinces, became at the same time conquest of the entire empire. Thus Caesar, without changing the form of the constitution, became the sole ruler of the state.

In accomplishing his originally negative purpose — the autocracy over Rome — he at the same time fulfilled the necessary historical destiny of Rome and the world. Thus he was motivated not only by his own private interest, but acted instinctively to bring to pass that which the times required. It is the same with all great historical individuals: their own particular purposes contain the substantial will of the World Spirit.

The source of their actions is the inner spirit, still hidden beneath the surface but already knocking against the outer world as against a shell, in order, finally, to burst forth and break it into pieces; for it is a kernel different from that which belongs to the shell. They are men, therefore, who appear to draw the impulses of their lives from themselves. Their deeds have produced a condition of things and a complex of historical relations that appear to be their own interest and their own work. Such individuals have no consciousness of the Idea as such.

They are practical and political men. But at the same time they are thinkers with insight into what is needed and timely. They see the very truth of their age and their world, the next genus, so to speak, which is already formed in the womb of time. It is theirs to know this new universal, the necessary next stage of their world, to make it their own aim and put all their energy into it. The world-historical persons, the heroes of their age, must therefore be recognized as its seers — their words and deeds are the best of the age.

Great men have worked for their own satisfaction and not that of others. Whatever prudent designs and well-meant counsels they might have gotten from others would have been limited and inappropriate under the circumstances. For it is they who knew best and from whom the others eventually learned and with whom they agreed or, at least, complied.

For Spirit, in taking this new historical step, is the innermost soul of all individuals — but in a state of unconsciousness, which the great men arouse to consciousness. For this reason their fellow men follow these soul-leaders, they stream to their banner. For they feel the irresistible power of their own spirit embodied in them. Let us now cast a look at the fate of these world-historical individuals. They were fortunate in being the agents of a purpose which constitutes a step in the progress of the universal Spirit.

But as individuals distinguished from their substantial aim, they were not what is commonly called happy, nor did they want to be. They wanted to achieve their aim, and they achieved it by their toil and labor. They succeeded in finding their satisfaction in bringing about their purpose, the universal purpose. With such a grand aim they had the boldness to challenge all the opinions of men.

Thus they attained no calm enjoyment. Their whole life was labor and trouble, their whole being was in their passion.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844—1900)

Once their objective is attained, they fall off like empty hulls from the kernel. They die early like Alexander, they are murdered like Caesar, transported to Saint Helena like Napoleon. They strive to criticize the great and belittle greatness. Thus in modern times it has been demonstrated ad nauseam that princes are generally unhappy on their thrones. For this reason one does not begrudge them their position and finds it tolerable that they rather than oneself sit on the throne.

The free man, however, is not envious, but gladly recognizes what is great and exalted and rejoices in its existence. But to such great men attaches a whole train of envy, which tries to demonstrate that their passion is a vice. They were indeed men of passion: they had the passion of their conviction and put their whole character, genius, and energy into it. Here, then, what is necessary in and for itself appears in the form of passion. These great men seem only to follow their passion and their arbitrary wills. But what they pursue is the universal; that alone is their pathos.

The passion precisely has been the energy of their ego; without it they would not have been able to achieve anything. In this way the purpose of passion and the purpose of the Idea are one and the same. Passion is the absolute unity of individual character and the universal. It is something almost animalic how the spirit in its subjective particularity here becomes identified with the Idea.

By fulfilling their own great purpose in accordance with the necessity of the universal Spirit, these world-historical men also satisfy themselves. These two things belong inseparably together: the cause and its hero. They must both be satisfied. It is psychological pedantry to make a separation and, by giving passion the name of addiction, to suspect the morality of these men. By saying they acted only from morbid craving, one presents the consequences of their actions as their purposes and degrades the actions themselves to means.

Alexander of Macedon partly conquered Greece and then Asia; it is said, therefore, that he craved conquest, and as proof it is offered that he did things which resulted in fame. What schoolmaster has not demonstrated that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were driven by such passions and were, consequently, immoral? From which it immediately follows that he, the schoolmaster, is a better man than they because he has no such passions, and proves it by the fact that he has not conquered Asia nor vanquished Darius and porus, but enjoys life and allows others to enjoy it too.

These psychologists are particularly fond of contemplating those peculiarities that belong to great historical figures as private persons. Man must eat and drink; he has relations with friends and acquaintances; he has emotions and fits of temper. Historical personages fare badly in historical literature when served by such psychological valets. These attendants degrade them to their own level, or rather a few degrees below the level of their own morality, these exquisite discerners of spirits.

Not in every age, it is true, does he get blows — that is, beating with a solid cudgel — as in the Homeric one. But his envy, his egotism, is the thorn that he has to carry in his flesh; and the undying worm that gnaws him is the tormenting thought that his excellent intentions and criticisms get absolutely no result in the world. A world-historical individual is not so sober as to adjust his ambition to circumstances; nor is he very considerate. He is devoted, come what may, to one purpose.

Therefore such men may treat other great and even sacred interests inconsiderately — a conduct which indeed subjects them to moral reprehension. But so mighty a figure must trample down many an innocent flower, crush to pieces many things in its path. The special interest of passion is thus inseparable from the actualization of the universal; for the universal results from the particular and definite and its negation.

The particular has its own role to play in world history; it is finite and must as such, perish. It is the particular which exhausts itself in the struggle and part of which is destroyed. But the universal results precisely from this struggle, from the destruction of the particular. It is not the general Idea that involves itself in opposition and combat and exposes itself to danger; it remains in the background, untouched and uninjured.

This may be called the cunning of Reason — that it sets the passions to work for itself, while that through which it develops itself pays the penalty and suffers the loss. For it is the phenomenal which in part is negative, in part positive. The particular in most cases is too trifling as compared with the universal; the individuals are sacrificed and abandoned. The Idea pays the tribute of existence and transience, not out of its own funds but with the passions of the individuals.

We might find it tolerable that individuals, their purposes and gratifications, are thus sacrificed, their happiness abandoned to the realm of natural forces and hence of chance to which it belongs; and that individuals in general are regarded under the category of means. Yet there is one aspect of human individuality that we must refuse to take exclusively in this light even in relation to the highest, an element which is absolutely not subordinate but exists in individuals as essentially eternal and divine.

I mean morality, ethics, religion. Already in discussing the role of individuals in the realization of the rational aim we said that the subjective element in them, their interests, cravings, and impulses, their views and judgments had an infinite right to be satisfied, although we regarded these as only the formal aspect of the process. In speaking of means we imagine, first of all, something external to the end which has no share in it. But actually even merely natural things, the most common lifeless objects used as means, must somehow be adapted to their purpose; they must have something in common with it.

This bare external relation of mere means is the least relation human beings have to the rational purpose. In the very act of realizing it they make it the occasion of satisfying their personal desires, whose import is different from that purpose. Moreover, they share in the rational purpose itself and for that very reason are ends in themselves — not merely formally, as is the world of other living beings, whose individual life is essentially subordinate to that of man and is properly used up as an instrument.

Men, on the contrary, are ends in themselves in regard to the content of the end. This defines those elements which we demand to be exempt from the category of means: morality, ethics, religion. Man is an end in himself only by virtue of the divine in him — that which we designated at the outset as Reason, or, insofar as it has activity and power of self-determination, as Freedom.

And we say — without entering at present into further discussion — that religiosity, morality, etc. In this sense, that is,] to the extent of their freedom, individuals are responsible for the depravation and enfeeblement of morality and religion. This is the seal of the absolute and sublime destiny of man, that he knows what is good and what is evil, and that his destiny is his very ability to will either good or evil.

The animal alone is truly innocent. In contemplating the fate which virtue, morality, even piety have in history, we must not fall into the litany of lamentations that the good and pious often, or for the most part, fare ill in the world, while the evil and wicked prosper. By prosperity one may understand a variety of things — riches, outward honor, and the like. But in speaking of purpose in and for itself, the so-called prosperity or misfortune of this or that isolated individual cannot be regarded as an essential element in the rational order of the universe.

With more reason than merely the happiness or fortunate circumstances of individuals we demand of the purpose of the world that good, moral, righteous purposes should find in and under it their satisfaction and security. What makes men morally discontented — a discontent on which they pride themselves — is that they do not find the present appropriate for the realization of aims which in their opinion are right and good — especially the ideals of political institutions of our time.

They contrast things as they are with their ideal of things as they ought to be. In this case it is neither private interest nor passion that desires gratification, but reason, justice, liberty. In their name people demand their due and often are not merely discontent but rebellious against the condition of the world. To estimate such views and feelings one would have to examine the stubborn demands and dogmatic opinions in question. At no time as much as in our own have such general principles and notions been advanced with so much pretentiousness.

At other times history seems to present itself as a struggle of passions. In our time, however, though passions are not wanting, history exhibits partly and predominantly a struggle of justifiable ideas and partly a struggle of passions and subjective interests under the mask of such higher pretensions.

These pretensions, regarded as legitimate in the name of the supposed destiny of Reason, are thereby validated as absolute ends — in the same way as religion, morality, ethics. As was said earlier, nothing is now more common than the complaint that the ideals which imagination sets up are not actualized, that these glorious dreams are destroyed by cold actuality. These ideals, which in the voyage of life founder on the rocks of hard reality, may be merely subjective to begin with and belong to the peculiarity of an individual who regards himself as supremely wise.

Such ideals do not belong here. For what an individual fancies for himself in his isolation cannot be the norm for universal reality. The universal law is not designed for individuals, as such, who indeed may find themselves very much the losers. Poets, like Schiller, have painted such ideals touchingly and with strong emotion, and with the deeply melancholy conviction that they could never be actualized. In affirming, on the contrary, that the universal Reason does actualize itself, we have nothing to do with the empirical detail.

For this can be better or worse; here chance and particularity have received authority to exercise their tremendous power. Much fault, therefore, might be found in phenomenal details. This subjective fault-finding is easy, particularly since it keeps in view only the detail and its deficiency, without understanding the universal Reason in it.

In asserting good intentions for the welfare of the whole and exhibiting a semblance of goodheartedness, it can swagger about with great airs. It is easier to discover the deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real meaning. For in negative fault-finding one stands nobly and with proud mien above the matter, without penetrating into it and without comprehending its positive aspects. Age generally makes people more tolerant; youth is always discontented.

For older people have a more mature judgment, which accepts even the bad, not out of mere indifference but because it has been more deeply taught by the grave experience of life. It has thus been led to the essence, the intrinsic value of the matter in question. The insight then to which — in opposition to these ideals philosophy should lead us is that the actual world is as it ought to be, that the truly good, the universal divine Reason is the power capable of actualizing itself.

This good, this Reason, in its most concrete representation, is God. God governs the world. The actual working of His government, the carrying out of His plan is the history of the world. Philosophy strives to comprehend this plan, for only that which has been carried out according to it has reality; whatever does not accord with it is but worthless existence. Before the pure light of this divine Idea, which is no mere ideal, the illusion disappears as though the world were a crazy, inane process.

Philosophy wishes to recognize the content, the reality of the divine Idea, and to justify the spurned actuality; for Reason is the comprehension of the divine work. But then what about the atrophy, corruption, and ruin of religious, ethical, and moral purposes and social conditions in general? It must be said that essentially these purposes are infinite and eternal. But the forms that they assume may be of a limited order and consequently belong to the realm of mere nature, subject to the sway of chance.

They are therefore transitory and exposed to atrophy and corruption. Religion and morality, as the universal essences in themselves, have the peculiarity of being present, conformably to their concepts and therefore truthfully, in the individual soul, although they may not be represented there fully elaborated and applied to completely developed conditions.

The religiousness, the morality of a limited life — of a shepherd, a peasant — in their concentrated inward limitation to a few and quite simple circumstances of life, has infinite value. It has the same value as the religiousness and morality of a trained intellect and of an existence rich in scope of relations and activities.

This inner focus, this simple region of the claims of subjective freedom — the seat of volition, resolution, and action, the abstract content of conscience, that wherein responsibility and worth of the individual are enclosed — remains untouched. It is quite shut out from the noisy din of world history, not only from its external and temporal changes but also from all alterations entailed by the absolute necessity of the concept of freedom itself.

In general, however, it must be noted that for whatever in the world is acclaimed as noble and glorious there is something even higher. The claim of the World Spirit rises above all special claims. So much concerning the means which the World Spirit uses for actualizing its concept. Simply and abstractedly, it is the activity of the subjects in whom Reason is present as their substantial essence in itself, but still obscure and concealed from them.

The matter becomes more complicated and difficult when we regard the individuals not merely as active but, more concretely, consider. Here the relation of mere means to an end disappears. The main points of this seeming difficulty with regard to the absolute purpose of Spirit have been briefly considered.

The third point, then, concerns the end to be attained by these means, that is, the form it assumes in the realm of the actual. We have spoken of means; but the carrying out of a subjective, limited aim also requires a material element, either already present or to be procured or to serve this actualization. Thus the question would arise: What is the material in which the final end of Reason is to be realized? It is first of all the subjective agent itself, human desires, subjectivity in general. In human knowledge and volition, as its material basis, the rational attains existence.

We have considered subjective volition with its purpose, namely, the truth of reality, insofar as moved by a great world — historical passion. As a subjective will in limited passions it is dependent; it can gratify its particular desires only within this dependence. But the subjective will has also a substantial life, a reality where it moves in the region of essential being and has the essential itself as the object of its existence. This essential being is the union of the subjective with the rational will; it is the moral whole, the State.

It is that actuality in which the individual has and enjoys his freedom, but only as knowing, believing, and willing the universal. This must not be understood as if the subjective will of the individual attained its gratification and enjoyment through the common will and the latter were a means for it — as if the individual limited his freedom among the other individuals, so that this common limitation, the mutual constraint of all, might secure a small space of liberty for each.

This would only be negative freedom. Rather, law, morality, the State, and they alone, are the positive reality and satisfaction of freedom. The caprice of the individual is not freedom. It is this caprice which is being limited, the license of particular desires. The subjective will, passion, is the force which actualizes and realizes. The Idea is the interior; the State is the externally existing, genuinely moral life. It is the union of the universal and essential with the subjective will, and as such it is Morality.

The individual who lives in this unity has a moral life, a value which consists in this substantiality alone. It is the end of the State to make the substantial prevail and maintain itself in the actual doings of men and in their convictions. It is the absolute interest of Reason that this moral whole exist; and herein lies the justification and merit of heroes who have founded states, no matter how crude. What counts in a state is the practice of acting according to a common will and adopting universal aims. Even in the crude state there is subjection of one will under another; but this does not mean that the individual does not have a will of his own.

It means that his particular will has no validity. Whims, lusts are not valid. The particularity of the will is being renounced already in such crude political formations. What counts is the common will. In thus being suppressed. And this is the first condition necessary for the existence of the universal, the condition. It thus makes its appearance in the state. Only on this soil, that is, in the state, can art and religion exist. The objects of our considerations are peoples that have organized themselves rationally.

Although it is true that all great men have formed themselves in solitude, they have done so only by assimilating what the state had already created. The universal must be not only something which the individual merely intends, but which is in existence. As such it is present in the state; it is that which is valid in it. Here inwardness is at the same time actuality.

It is but actuality of an external manifold, yet comprehended here in universality. The universal Idea manifests itself in the state. Usually we distinguish between power potentiality and manifestation, as if the former were the essential, the latter the unessential or external. But no concrete determination lies as yet in the category of power itself, while where Spirit is, or the concrete concept, manifestation itself is the essential. The criterion of Spirit is its action, its active essence. Man is his own action, the sequence of his actions, that into which he has been making himself.

Thus Spirit is essentially Energy; and in regard to Spirit one cannot set aside its manifestation. The manifestation of Spirit is its actual self-determination, and this is the element of its concrete nature. Spirit which does not determine itself is an abstraction of the intellect. The manifestation of Spirit is its self-determination, and it is this manifestation that we have to investigate in the form of states and individuals.

The spiritual individual, the people, insofar as it is organized in itself, an organic whole, is what we call the State. For us, then, a people is primarily a. We do not emphasize the external aspects but concentrate on what has been called the spirit of a people. We mean its consciousness of itself, of its own truth, its own essence, the spiritual powers which live and rule in it. The universal which manifests itself in the State and is known in it — the form under which everything that is, is subsumed — is that which constitutes the culture of a nation.

The definite content which receives this universal form and is contained in the concrete actuality of the state is the spirit of the people. The actual state is animated by this spirit in all its particular affairs, wars, institutions, etc. This spiritual content is something definite, firm, solid, completely exempt from caprice, the particularities, the whims of individuality, of chance. That which is subject to the latter is not the nature of the people: it is like the dust playing over a city or a field, which does not essentially transform it.

This spiritual content then constitutes the essence of the individual as well as that of the people. It is the holy bond that ties the men, the spirits together. It is one life in all, a grand object, a great purpose and content on which depend all individual happiness and all private decisions. The arguments we'll be examining are arguments for political or social freedom: the freedom of the individual in relation to other people and to the state.

The aim is to explain and unravel some arguments for this kind of freedom. In the process we'll be examining some of the classic philosophical defences of particular types of freedom. The stress will always be on the arguments used rather than on the detailed historical context in which the views were originally expressed.

Many of the central arguments transfer readily to the contemporary situation, if you make appropriate changes. They contribute to the pressing debates about the limits of individual freedom that affect us today. If I'm imprisoned then, obviously, I'm not free. I can't choose to go out for a stroll, eat a pizza, go to the cinema, and so on. But on the other hand, even as a prisoner, I am likely to be free in many respects. I am free to think about whatever I want to think about. In all but the cruellest prison regimes I will be free to pace around my cell, do a few push-ups or stare blankly at the wall; I'll also be free to write a letter to my family, perhaps even to study for an Open University degree, and so on.

However, this may be a sentimental view of what prison life is actually like for most prisoners. Several of the activities I have described, particularly studying, require a certain amount of concentration. For most of us concentration requires relative quiet. Here is one prisoner's account of trying to study for an Open University course:. One of the main problems is that of noise. Jail is a very noisy place and it is rarely quiet. The quietest periods are after 8. At other times it is very hard to concentrate with all the noise.

I can't study during communal periods because of the loudness of the TV. Noise is a major problem. So is this prisoner really free to study? Although the prison authorities don't actively prevent him from doing so, the noise in the prison at some times of the day does. A prisoner's freedom may be curtailed in many ways beyond preventing him or her leaving the prison, and not all of those curtailments of freedom are necessarily a result of someone deliberately imposing restrictions on behaviour. Nevertheless, most prisoners have considerably more freedom in most respects than did Gulliver, in Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels , when he woke up after being shipwrecked on the shore of Lilliput:.

I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my armpits to my thighs. I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended my eyes. I heard a confused noise about me, but in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky. In this condition, Gulliver had virtually no freedom of movement.

Even physical freedom is not a matter of all or nothing, but rather of degree. You may be imprisoned, but there are still further freedoms that you can lose. France during most of the Second World War was not a free country in this sense as it was occupied by the Nazis or controlled by the Vichy government. The Resistance saw themselves as freedom fighters, risking their lives to liberate France. Their aim was quite simply a free France, which meant a France which was free from Nazi occupation. Yet when France was liberated it did not miraculously become free in every respect; nor were the French completely constrained in what they could do while the Nazis were in occupation.

Totalitarianism may take many different forms. A Party Member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinised.

Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. In such a totalitarian state there is no significant private realm in which individuals can exercise free choice: every area of life is subject to control by the state authorities. Here, then, is another sense in which a state or nation can lack freedom.

What these examples show is that freedom isn't a matter of all or nothing. You can be free in some respects and not in others usually the context in which freedom is being discussed makes clear what kind of freedom is at stake. And you can have a greater or lesser degree of a particular freedom.

Theories of Everything

There is, as far as I know, no controversy about what an aardvark is. If I were unsure whether or not the animal in front of me was an aardvark, a competent zoologist could easily set me straight. There are established criteria for determining which animals are aardvarks: if an animal meets these criteria, then it must be an aardvark. But political freedom is a notion that has been argued about for centuries: there is no uncontroversial way of defining it.

The definition you give usually implies a particular view about human beings and about the things we do or should value most. There are numerous, conflicting definitions of what art is. Similarly there are many different views about what political freedom is, and in particular about where its limits should be set. In a ground-breaking lecture, the philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin —97 argued that there are two basic types of freedom which have been defended by philosophers and political theorists: negative freedom and positive freedom.

Within each category there is scope for quite a wide range of positions; but most theories of freedom fit quite comfortably into one category or the other. Berlin's article is important for three reasons. First, it provides a useful distinction between these two types of freedom. Secondly, it makes a case for the view that theories of positive freedom have often been used as instruments of oppression. Thirdly, by describing the incompatibility of various fundamental human aims in life, it suggests a reason why we put such a high value on freedom.

For our purposes, the most important feature is the first, the distinction between the two types of freedom: negative and positive. The concept of negative freedom centres on freedom from interference. This type of account of freedom is usually put forward in response to the following sort of question:. What is the area within which the subject — a person or group of persons — is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?

You restrict my negative freedom when you restrict the number of choices I can make about my life. The extent of my negative freedom is determined by how many possible choices lie open to me, or, to use one of Berlin's metaphors, how many doors are unlocked. It is also determined by the types of choices that are available.

Clearly not every sort of choice should be given equal status: some choices are of greater importance than others. For most of us having freedom of speech, even if we don't take advantage of this opportunity, is a more important freedom than the freedom to choose between ten different sorts of washing powder. This is how Berlin puts it:. The extent of a man's negative liberty is, as it were, a function of what doors, and how many are open to him; upon what prospects they open; and how open they are.

He certainly does not intend to imply that only men can be free, or that only men can limit another's freedom. It doesn't matter whether or not I actually take advantage of the opportunities open to me: I am still free to the extent that I could, if I chose, take advantage of them:. The freedom of which I speak is opportunity for action, rather than action itself.

If, although I enjoy the right to walk through open doors, I prefer not to do so, but to sit still and vegetate, I am not thereby rendered less free. Freedom is the opportunity to act, not action itself. So, if you park your car across my drive, thereby preventing me from getting my car out, you restrict my freedom; and this is true even if I choose to stay in bed listening to my CDs all day, and would have done so even if you hadn't parked there.

Or, if the state prevents me from going on strike by making my actions illegal, even if I don't have anything to strike about, and even if I don't ever intend to strike, my freedom is still curtailed. Negative freedom is a matter of the doors open to me, not of whether I happen to choose to go through them. However, not all restrictions on my possible choices are infringements of my negative freedom. Berlin states that only restrictions imposed by other people affect my freedom.

Colloquially, we might say that because we are human we aren't free to jump ten feet in the air or free to understand what an obscure passage in a difficult book by Hegel means. Hegel was a philosopher — justifiably renowned for the obscurity of most of his writing. But when discussing political freedom, the sort we are interested in here, these sorts of restrictions on what we can do, aren't counted as obstacles to freedom, however distressing they may be. Other people limit our freedom by what they do.

Limitations on our action brought about by the nature of the universe or the human body aren't relevant to the discussion of political freedom. Political freedom is a matter of the relations of power which hold between individuals and between individuals and the state.

The clearest cases in which freedom is restricted are when someone forces you to do something. You might be forced to join the army, for instance, if you live in a country which has compulsory military service. The law might force you to wear a crash helmet every time you ride your motorcycle. Your partner might force you to stay in rather than go out to the cinema, or to tidy up the kitchen rather than do another hour's study. I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity. Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others.

If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved. Coercion is not, however, a term that covers every form of inability. If I say that I am unable to jump more than ten feet in the air, or cannot read because I am blind, or cannot understand the darker pages of Hegel, it would be eccentric to say that I am to that degree enslaved or coerced.

Coercion implies the deliberate interference of other human beings within the area in which I could otherwise act. You lack political liberty or freedom only if you are prevented from attaining a goal by human beings. Mere incapacity to attain a goal is not lack of political freedom. Which of the following involve limitations on an individual's negative freedom in the sense outlined by Berlin above?

Not all the cases are clearcut. You can't read because you are blind. Officers of an evil totalitarian regime blinded you to prevent you reading and writing subversive literature. You are denied access to braille books and audio tapes. It might have seemed to follow from Berlin's account of negative freedom that poverty couldn't count as a limitation on individual freedom.

True, poverty effectively locks many doors. But these doors aren't necessarily locked by other people's actions; poverty may have other, non-human, causes. It may be due to the effects of freak weather conditions leading to famine; or perhaps to sudden illness or accident. Whether or not poverty is to count as a limitation of negative freedom depends entirely on your view of the causes of the poverty in question.

This becomes clear in the following passage from Berlin's essay:. It is argued, very plausibly, that if a man is too poor to afford something on which there is no legal ban — a loaf of bread, a journey round the world, recourse to the law courts — he is as little free to have it as he would be if it were forbidden him by law. If my poverty were a kind of disease, which prevented me from buying bread, or paying for the journey round the world or getting my case heard, as lameness prevents me from running, this inability would not naturally be described as a lack of freedom, least of all political freedom.

It is only because I believe that my inability to get a given thing is due to the fact that other human beings have made arrangements whereby I am, whereas others are not, prevented from having enough money with which to pay for it, that I think myself a victim of coercion or slavery. The criterion of oppression is the part that I believe to be played by other human beings, directly or indirectly with or without the intention of doing so, in frustrating my wishes.

By being free in this sense I mean not being interfered with by others. The wider the area of non-interference the wider my freedom. If the man described above is too poor to buy a loaf of bread as a consequence of other people's actions, then, whether these other people intended this effect or not, his freedom has been curtailed. But if his poverty is a result of non-human causes, such as a drought-induced famine, or some natural disaster, terrible as his plight might be, it would not limit his negative freedom.

Positive freedom is a more difficult notion to grasp than negative. Put simply it is freedom to do something rather than freedom from interference. Negative freedom is simply a matter of the number and kind of options that lie open for you and their relevance for your life; it is a matter of what you aren't prevented from doing; the doors that lie unlocked. Positive freedom, in contrast, is a matter of what you can actually do. All sorts of doors may be open, giving you a large amount of negative freedom, and yet you might find that there are still obstacles to taking full advantage of your opportunities.

Here we might talk of my increasing my freedom in the positive sense by overcoming my less rational desires. This is easier to understand if you consider some examples. I know that studying is important to me, and will increase my control over my life. So the short-term gratifications tend to seduce me away from activities which are better for me in the long term. It is not a question of having more, or more significant, opportunities: the opportunity for me to study is there now.

Rather it is a question of being able to take advantage of the opportunity by being in control of my life. Positive freedom in this example is a matter of my having the capacity to take the rational option as well as having the opportunity : whereas, according to a concept of negative freedom, the opportunities that I have alone determine the extent of my freedom. I am free to study in the negative sense since no one is preventing me from doing it; no one has locked away my books, or hidden my pen and paper; no one has dragged me out of the door to go to the pub, or chained me to my armchair in front of the television.

However, I am not free in the positive sense; I am not truly free, because I am a slave to my tendency to be sidetracked. True positive freedom would involve seizing control of my life and making rational choices for myself. Those who defend positive freedom believe that just because no one is preventing you from doing something, it does not follow that you are genuinely free.

Positive freedom is a matter of achieving your potential, not just having potential. Consider another example, a real one this time. James Boswell, the eighteenth-century diarist and biographer of Dr Johnson, included the following in his journal for Sunday 31 March It describes how he spent a night in London following a dinner with friends:.

I behaved pretty decently. But when I got into the street, the whoring rage came upon me. I thought I would devote a night to it. I was weary at the same time that I was tumultuous. I went to Charing Cross Bagnio with a wholesome-looking, bouncing wench, stripped, and went to bed with her. But after my desires were satiated by repeated indulgence, I could not rest; so I parted from her after she had honestly delivered to me my watch and ring and handkerchief, which I should not have missed I was so drunk.

I took a hackney-coach and was set down in Berkeley Square, and went home cold and disturbed and dreary and vexed, with remorse rising like a black cloud without any distinct form; for in truth my moral principle as to chastity was absolutely eclipsed for a time. I was in the miserable state of those whom the Apostle represents as working all uncleanness with greediness. I thought of my valuable spouse with the highest regard and warmest affection, but had a confused notion that my corporeal connection with whores did not interfere with my love for her.

Yet I considered that I might injure my health, which there could be no doubt was an injury to her. This is an exact state of my mind at the time. It shocks me to review it. Here Boswell's confession reveals clearly the tension between two sides of his character. In his sober reflection he can see the foolishness of his having spent the night with a prostitute. Even soon after the event he is stricken with remorse, which he attempts to dispel by means of the transparent rationalisation that somehow, despite breaking his principle of chastity, his infidelity does not interfere with his love for his wife.

Yet he can't hide behind self-serving justifications for long, when he realises that he has risked catching a venereal disease, something that undoubtedly has the potential to harm her. His higher self endorses a principle of chastity and fidelity; his lower self succumbs to temptations of the flesh. Otherwise, you are simply a slave to passing emotions and desires; lusts in this case. Sober, Boswell is shocked by his actions of the previous night. This would certainly have infringed his negative liberty in the sense of reducing his opportunities, but it would have allowed him to do what at some level he felt was best for him, and thereby to enjoy positive freedom in this respect.

From this it should be clear that the notion of positive liberty may rely on the belief that the self can be split into a higher and a lower self, and that the higher or rational self's priorities should be encouraged to overcome the lower, less rational self's inclinations: the passing desires that if acted on can so upset a life plan. The higher self has desires for what will make the individual's life go well; it wishes to pursue worthwhile and noble goals. The lower self is easily led astray, often by irrational appetites.

In many cases this can only be achieved by coercing us to behave in ways which seem to go against our desires; in fact this coercion is necessary to allow us to fulfil our rational higher desires, desires which we may even be unaware of having. On this view, the freedom which is self-mastery, or positive freedom, may only be achievable if our lower selves are constrained in their actions. This is what I would have wanted had I been truly free.

If Boswell had been forced to go home straight after dinner rather than given the opportunity to spend the night with a prostitute, his positive freedom might have been significantly extended. I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men's acts of will.

I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer — deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role — that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realizing them. This is at least part of what I mean when I say that I am rational, and that it is my reason that distinguishes me as a human being from the rest of the world.

I wish, above all, to be conscious of myself as a thinking, willing, active being, bearing responsibility for his choices and able to explain them by reference to his own ideas and purposes. I feel free to the degree that I believe this to be true, and enslaved to the degree that I am made to realize that it is not. It is important to realise that Berlin's notion of positive liberty doesn't just apply to self-mastery at the individual level; it also encompasses theories of freedom which emphasise collective control over common life.

So, for example, when someone calls a society a free society because its members play an active role in controlling it through their participation in democratic institutions, they are appealing to a notion of positive freedom rather than of negative freedom. In this example the people as a whole are free because they, collectively, have mastery over the life of their society.

J. B. BURY, M.A., F.B.A

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A free society based upon the concept of negative freedom would typically be one in which state interference in individual lives is kept to a minimum. This would not necessarily be a democratic society since a benevolent dictator might be concerned to provide an extensive realm of individual negative freedom for each of his or her subjects.

The state intervenes to prevent an alcoholic drinking himself to death on the grounds that this is what, in his sober and rational moments, he would clearly desire and so is a basic condition of his gaining true freedom. The state protects an alcoholic's freedom to consume huge amounts of whisky in the privacy of her own home.

I cease to be free when I follow my baser sensual appetites: I am in thrall to mere passing desire. It is an infringement on my freedom to prevent me from engaging in consensual sado-masochism in the privacy of my own dungeon. I don't need the nanny state forcing me to have fluoride in my drinking water for my own good: that infringes my freedom.

You can only really be free in a well-governed state with harsh but well-chosen laws which shape your life in a rational way, thereby encouraging you to flourish. Increasing your opportunities to make a mess of your life doesn't increase your freedom in any meaningful sense. Berlin's distinction between negative and positive freedom remains a useful one, and much of are structured around it.

However, his aim in the paper was not simply to make the distinction, but rather to make a claim about the ways in which theories of positive freedom have been misused. It is that positive theories of freedom, or perversions of them, have been more frequently used as instruments of oppression than have negative ones. Coercion is justified on the grounds that it leads to a realisation of the aims of the higher or rational self, even if the lower, everyday, empirical self opposes the coercion with all its might.

The final humiliation in such a situation is to be told that, despite appearances, what is going on is not coercion, since it actually increases your freedom. Read the following extract from Berlin's article ibid. Lines 1—2. Which of the following two phrases describes the concept of positive freedom and which the concept of negative freedom?

Lines 8— Put the main point of these lines in your own words. You should not use more than fifty words to do this. Lines 16— Berlin lines 31—41 says that coercing people for their own sake is sometimes justifiable. A paradox is a situation which yields an apparent contradiction. What is the paradox that Berlin refers to in line 54? Compare your answers with those below. Then re-read the whole extract before reading on. You should find that your understanding of the main points made in the passage has increased significantly. The metaphor of being master over one's own life, no one's slave, still leaves open the possibility of being a slave to one's own passions.

The idea of a higher and rational self the master , which should keep in check the lower irrational self the unruly slave , comes from this. Berlin put these words within inverted commas to indicate that he does not necessarily accept that such a nature is real or that such a self, if it exists, is higher. He is reporting how other people use these words rather than endorsing this way of speaking himself. Berlin claims that some advocates of positive liberty have gone so far as to insist that other people don't necessarily know what they really want, what their higher selves seek.

It is not a case of forcing people to do what would be good for them because they can't appreciate what is good for them; it is a matter of forcing people to do what at a level unavailable to them they, allegedly, wish to do. The paradox is that people are forced to do what they say they don't want to do on the grounds that they really do want to do it.

What they really want to do, on this analysis, is what they really don't want to do. Although Berlin doesn't actually use the term, in the passage you have just read Berlin contrasts paternalism with a particular way in which the concept of positive freedom has frequently been misused. Paternalism is coercing people for their own sake. An example of paternalism is putting fluoride in drinking water, whether or not the population wants it there, on the grounds that it will significantly reduce the incidence of tooth decay, and thus improve the health of the population.

The fluoride is added for the good of the people who drink the water, whether they realise that it will do them good or not. Though it might not seem like it to them, they are, allegedly, freer as a result of the coercion.

2. The Nature of Free Will

In other words, this misuse of positive freedom rests on the belief that it can be acceptable to force people to be free. It has been the source of much misery and many ruined lives. It is important to realise that Berlin is not saying that only the concept of positive liberty can be misused. In fact it is obvious that versions of the negative concept can also be used to justify some terrible states of affairs. In some situations, preserving individuals' freedom from interference might be tantamount to encouraging the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak.

The pike might think it an excellent idea to allow fish to go about their business unimpeded by rules or interventions. The minnows, who stand to be his lunch, will no doubt see the limitations of a negative theory of liberty which allowed them to be eaten on the grounds that otherwise the pike's freedom would have been seriously curtailed. However, although theories based on a concept of negative liberty can lead to unsatisfactory situations, Berlin's point is that historically this is not usually what has happened. It is the theories of positive liberty which have led to human tragedy on a massive scale.