Sir Isaiah Berlin, 1909-1997

Sir Isaiah Berlin, 1909-1997
All-Souls College, Oxford
(The Warden and College of the Souls of all Faithful
People deceased in the University of Oxford ) 1438
• I. Life
• II. Value pluralism and relativism
• III. Two concepts of liberty
– Circumstances
– Positive Liberty
• Act unobstructedly
If prevented from doing what I would otherwise do, I am not free
» Liberty is the same for everyone
» Involves the notion that some sphere of human society must be kept
independent of social control
» This is liberty FROM (ie absence of interference from what is beyond the
• Compare to JS Mill ON LIBERTY (for whom progress depends on
• Positive Liberty
– Wish to be one’s own master
– Liberty TO
– Dominant Self
• Retreat to the Inner Citadel: problem for neg.
– What if I have desires but cannot pursue them?
• The question of self realization
– Does freedom come from the use of critical
• Political danger of relying on reason
• The temple of Sarastro
– Do problems admit of a solution? What kind(s)?
• Search for Status
• Liberty and Sovereignty
– Tyranny
• One and the Many
– No Harmony of Values
– Pluralism revisited
• What do we say about other values – the “bad” ones?

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