Analyzing the Differences Between Positive and Negative Freedom

Subject: Sociology
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1488
Topics: Social Studies, Freedom, Social Issues


Freedom refers to being able to carry out what one needs to do with the absence of being controlled or limited by another person (Carter, Kramer and Steiner, 2007). There are two types of freedom namely positive and negative freedom this essay seeks to analyze their differences.

Analysis of differences between positive and negative freedom.

Positive freedom is being able to carry out an exercise without interference. On the other hand, negative freedom refers to the count of various options that are on disposal for one to choose and how these choices are vital for one’s life i.e. they are choices an individual is free to pick. While in positive freedom, they are options available provided that one can do it (Baum and Nichols, 2013). There could be all kinds of opportunities open for one to exploit, however, if one has negative freedom, he/she will still be able to encounter barriers that will prevent from fully making use of the opportunities that are on disposal.

In the aspect of positive freedom, the concept of self entails both higher and lower self. Lower one can be taken over by ensuring that the higher self’s priorities are encouraged. The lower self-priorities are those desires that never last, and people should focus on those desires that are for a lifetime. Therefore the desires in higher self are so vital in that they make life better. Since the lower self is easily delineated from the right track, the intellectuals who support positive freedom recommend that man has to protect himself from lower self so that goals can be achieved (Askland, 1993). This is only achievable through by living in a way that is against the desires that we yearn for. This is important because it will provide the room for fulfilling the desires of the higher self and also discover them if we are not aware if we have them.

Therefore as per this school of thought, the positive freedom can only be acquired provided that the lower self-desires can be given almost no attention in our daily activities. For instance restricting someone from going out for a drink so that all night so that he/she can study will help in making him/her discover the true freedom, of which can be found by planning time well for studying.

The school of thoughts on negative freedom states the agreeable extents of destructions in the life of a person. The negative freedom of a person is limited provided that the number of options one makes in his life is restricted (Baum and Nichols, 2013). Therefore the level of a person’s negative freedom is based on the available choices that one can choose from. Also, it is also imperative not to treat every choice with the same status as others are more vital than others. For instance, many individuals who are entitled to freedom of speech provided that they do not exploit this opportunity.

According to Berlin, making a differentiating positive and negative freedom is a differentiating two questions that are legit and their corresponding answers. On negative freedom, that question seeks to make an inquiry into the extent of freedom and the options available. This means that this inquiry seeks to portray the secondary conditions that freedom has. Provided that there will be obstacles, for instance, those created by humans directly, intentionally or deliberately, negative freedom will still be grouped as the non-existence of external obstructions (Baum and Nichols, 2013). Also, the condition can also manipulate freedom as a political issue and make human inabilities like flying or swimming to be termed as barriers to freedom.

Another way positive and negative freedom differs is that negative freedom is just a general concept whereas positive freedom is specific because negative freedom alludes to being able to freely do something but its limitation is the existence of something that is not specified. Moreover, it is impossible to equate self-actualization with because of the need to set aside what is valuable and the valueless hence negative freedom can be termed as a prequalification for one to have self-actualization. Besides, negative freedom has a base on its rights because one is abandoned to be on its terms. Hence the actions of an individual are up to oneself unlike that of positive freedom whereby others are responsible for other people’s choices.

On the other hand, Taylor disagrees on the secondary freedom obstructions. He goes ahead and points out that there could be the possibility of primary obstacles. The creation of negative and positive ideologies of freedom attests to this truth. Therefore, the negative school of thought on freedom was the dynamism of alien causes, for instance, the instant desires and choices that will direct us into deviating from the duty that one is required to do. If man ignores to be guided by law and allow desire to take over, then he would be under alienating forces and cannot control himself (Askland, 1993).

People who believe in negative freedom are; implied to consider people just we do to indicate living human bodies and say of each (and just of each), there’s a “man.” Precisely, what we customarily call people. They are indicated to mean much what we mean by “hindrance”. However this progression with changes in our perspectives of what can be ascribed to game plans made by individuals, and furthermore with varieties in the significance, we join to agreeing to tenets, practices, etc. 

Also, they are indicated to have very common perspectives on what a man could be allowed to do or progressed toward becoming. The activities are here and there proposed in a genuinely particular terms like being able to have a home, raise a family, and rise to the top. However, he is indicated to discuss people being free or not allowed to do what they need (Davydov, 2015).  

The criteria for figuring out what a man needs to do are those we utilize, or maybe even the most credulous and unsophisticated of them for illustration. What a man needs to do is controlled by what he says he needs to do, or by what he plainly tries to do, or even does (Davydov, 2015). 

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Conversely, the individuals who have faith in positive freedom; Now and again don’t count, as the specialist whose freedom is being considered, what inheritors of our convention would unhesitatingly consider being a “human”. Instead, they once in a while participate in what has been revealingly. The operator in whose flexibility they are intrigued is recognized as the genuine or the sound or the “ethical” individual who is some way or another occasionally covered up inside or has his seed contained inside, the living human body (Bowring, 2015). 

Concerning treatment of the third term by those who prefer positive freedom, maybe enough as of now been said to propose that they have a tendency to underscore states of character instead of activities. To recommend that, as with as well, the scope of character conditions and activities concentrated on may impact or be affected by what is thought to consider operator and by what is believed to consider anticipating condition (Kaufman, 1962). Subsequently, however, something more distinct would need to be said in regards to the matter in the long run, in any event, some contact with the issues already brought may be normal up in contentions of the scope of this variable. 

It is critical to see here and all through, notwithstanding, that close attention between two essayists in their comprehension of the scope of one of the factors does not make inescapable like concurrence on the scopes of the others. To be sure, we have gone sufficiently far to see that the sorts of issues emerging in the assurance of the extents are adequately various to make such essential connections impossible. Precisely this renders endeavors to orchestrate scholars on freedom into two contradicting camps so misshaped and eventually worthless. There is as well rich a supply of courses in which records of flexibility veer. 


If we are to deal with these differences sensibly, we should concentrate our consideration on each of these factors and contrasts in perspectives as to their reaches. Until we do this, we won’t see plainly the issues which have in reality been raised, and along these lines won’t see obviously what needs contending. In perspective of this need, it is both cumbersome and deluding to attempt to deal with scholars as disciples of either kind or idea of freedom. We would be obviously better off to demand that they all have a similar idea of flexibility as a triadic connection (Bowring, 2015). Hence setting ourselves in a place to notice how, and ask productively into why, they distinguish exceptionally what can fill in as the specialist, anticipating condition, and activity or, on the other hand, the condition of character versus issues of freedom.

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  1. Askland, A. (1993). Charles Taylor Against the Negative Sense of Freedom: An Unjustified Collapse and a Persisting External Authority. Auslegung: a Journal of Philosophy.
  2. Baum, B. and Nichols, R. (2013). Isaiah Berlin and the Politics of Freedom. New York: Routledge.
  3. Bowring, F. (2015). Negative and Positive Freedom: Lessons from, and to, Sociology. Sociology, (1), pp.156-171.
  4. Carter, I., Kramer, M. and Steiner, H. (2007). Freedom. Malden (Mass.): Blackwell Pub.
  5. Davis, D. (2009). Negative Liberty. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  6. Davydov, O. (2015). Negative and Positive Freedom in The Context of Social being. Sovremennye issledovaniya sotsialnykh problem, 0 (5), p.214.
  7. Flikschuh, K. (2013). Freedom. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Kaufman, a. (1962). Professor Berlin on ‘negative freedom.’ Mind, Lxxi (282), pp.241-243.
  9. Ryan, A. and Berlin, I. (1979). The idea of freedom. Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press.
  10. Svendsen, L. (2009). A Philosophy of Freedom. 1st ed. pp.4-10
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