The Notion of Freedom and Its Different Meanings Essay

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This essay will explore the notion of freedom and attempt to shed light on various explanations on what freedom is. Narrowly speaking, the plain and ordinary definition of freedom is ‘the absence of restraint,’ but how this definition is applied is much harder to clarify and encompasses a wide range of ideas. This essay will attempt to highlight some of these ideas by focusing mainly on the theories of Isaiah Berlin and his two different concepts of freedom, including negative and positive freedom. It will analyse the various theories of other philosophers with reference to these two distinct ideas and attempt to conclude whether the law does indeed restrict freedom.

Isaiah Berlin explains his idea of negative freedom by articulating
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It is therefore the job of the state, to protect the freedom of its citizens and ‘to do this, it needs to limit liberty but the limitations should be as small as possible.’

According to Kelsen in his Pure Theory of Law, ‘Law can limit freedom by commanding or prohibiting,’ and ‘authorising sanctions in relation to certain behaviour.’ This is the idea that the mere concept of law and the regulation of society through law obviously restrict freedom on some level, in that it attempts to restrict certain activities. It is ‘the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual,’ and explains to some extent how, ‘the state it the primary threat to freedom.’ Berlin argues that, ‘the area of men’s free action must be limited by law,’ but highlights that there must be a balance struck between the freedom of private life and the threat of public authority. Kelsen agues that, ‘what law guarantees as freedom is dependant on what specific guarantees, specific legal rules, the legal order contains.’ He states that law can regulate the behaviour of an individual in two different…

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