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Should We Value Positive Freedom Over Negative Freedom

1706 words - 7 pages

This essay will focus on establishing an accurate definition of Negative Freedom and Positive Freedom and which one of the two should be valued more. In addition the latter part of the essay will focus on extrapolating a deductively sound rationale as to why one freedom should be valued over the other freedom.

According to Hugh negative freedom can be viewed as freedom from interference (Hugh 2006). Freedom is the chance to act upon opportunities that are presented to one; it does not refer to whether one chooses to act on these opportunities (Hugh 2006; Berlin 1958). A person’s negative freedom is determined by how many possible choices are available to one or as stated according to the Berlin metaphor, it refers to the number of unlocked doors (Hugh, 2006; Berlin, 2008). Hugh explained that opportunities are given based on hierarchical importance which means that some opportunities are more important than others (Hugh, 2006). For example one’s choice to freedom of speech is more important than making a choice of what coffee brand to drink (Hugh, 2006). According to Berlin, one can do activities according to what one wants to do, when one wants to do the action and how one wants to conduct that action (Berlin; 1958). Berlin further stated that political freedom is the ability for one to make a choice without interference from anybody (Berlin, 1958). For example President Robert Mugabe has been in power for twenty seven years, he made a decision to hold all the power by controlling the police and the army.

Arneson (1996), argues that negative freedom can refer to the fact that one is free in the negative sense to do act on something; however one can be limited by a physical disability such as blindness and the lack of means to act (Arneson 1996). This was defined as coercion by Berlin (1958). A blind person’s inability to read may not be due to negative freedom, as interference is not caused by man but rather due to the enslavement of being born blind but due to their blindness; it is not due to interference by man who cannot read may not be able to read not because of negative freedom but by the fact that they are enslaved by their blindness (Berlin, 1958). Coercion refers to deliberate interference that hinders someone from acting where they could otherwise act (Berlin, 1958). Lack of political freedom is when one’s negative freedom is infringed upon or restricted when a person obstructs another person from achieving their goals (Berlin 1958). A good example in South Africa today can be referred to as lack 'economic freedom' as twenty years post-apartheid the poor still do not have basic needs such as lack water, toilets, electricity, classrooms and clinics. However, in the case where one cannot travel abroad; this cannot be referred to as negative freedom because the lack of resources to travel is not caused by man (Berlin, 1958). Berlin (1958), further argued that the lack of resources caused by one’s reduced mental or physical...

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