Language and Politics

The language of liberty has long been the despair of exact thinkers. The words "liberty" and "freedom" have been used in a multitude of senses, sometimes inconsistent, often confused, always emotive. But whereas many have thought to deal with similar inexactitude in the use of the word "democracy" by banning it altogether from the vocabulary of politics, few have dared to do so with "liberty" and "freedom". The words are too important and what they stand for is too precious for us to be able to dispense with them altogether, and, rather than ban them, we tend to define them, choosing those definitions that reflect our owi,. predilections or will yield the consequences which will best advance our argument. I am subject to the same temptations myself, and in trying to elucidate the language of liberty, I am viewing it from a definite philosophical standpoint, and may be unwittingly distorting what I see. In particular, I am trying to give a more unitary account of the concept than perhaps the variegated uses of language will admit of, and shall seek to show how the different facets of freedom all stem from the same fundamental concern, and that although we can properly distinguish "freedom to" from "freedom from", and perhaps both from "freedom of', and although the distinction between "negative freedom" and "positive freedom" made famous throughout the Englishspeaking world by Sir Isaiah Berlin's inaugural lecture as Chichele Professor..
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