What is liberty exactly? This question isbeing raised from the times of Plato, which is known as one of the mostinfluential philosophers in Classical Greece. Along with Plato such prominentthinkers as Edmund Burke, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Alexis de Tocqueville,Jean Jacque Rousseau and many others continually debated on the topic, tryingto underscore their own notable perception. In this essay the main focus willbe directed on the understanding of the notion of liberty, although on ThomasHobbes and Edmund Berlin’s figures and their approaches towards liberty, asthose are intersected to the certain extend. Both philosophers shed some lighton this concept, dividing it on two ideas. In the first place, thedefinition of liberty may vary depending on field in which it is used.
For instance, while Macmillan dictionary ofEnglish defines it as ‘the freedom to think or behave in the way that you wantand not be controlled by a government or by other people’ (Macmillan Dictionary2017), and in the second explanation it states that liberty is ‘a particularkind of freedom, especially one that you have a legal right to’ (MacmillanDictionary 2017). Thus, one may be completely confused what it exactly means. Onone hand, in philosophy liberty involves free will, as ‘the noun liberty hasits roots in the Latin “libertas”. This can refer to political or civil freedomin the sense of being a free person, as defined by “the absence of control orrestraint”‘ (Macmillan Dictionary 2017). On another hand, in politics libertyis ‘the state or condition of those who are invested with the right effectuallyto share in framing and conducting the government under which they arepolitically organized’ (Merriam-Webster 2017), this means shearing of somepolitical and social principles to which all community members are attached. ThomasJefferson, the third President of the United States being one of the FoundingFathers and key author of the Declaration of Independence, used the essentialidea of will, explaining political liberty ‘… rightful liberty isunobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us bythe equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’;because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates theright of an individual’ (The U.S.
National Archives and Records Administration2017). It is quite importantto tackle the difference between liberty and freedom, as those terms might seemto be the same. In fact, they are often interpreted in the similar way,however, do not have identical meaning. As it was already mentioned above,liberty is the state or condition, where individuals take full responsibilitiesfor their behavior.
In contrast, freedom is ‘the condition or right of beingable or allowed to do whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited'(Cambridge English Dictionary 2017), which means to enjoy various libertieswithout any restraints such as natural, social, civil, individual, economic orreligious one. According to the Article three of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights ‘Everyone has the right to life, libertyand security of person’ (The United Nations 1948). Despite the fact that in thesame document in the Article one is stated ‘All human beings are born free andequal in dignity and rights …’, the state can imprison the individual becauseof the breaking of the law. To begin with, ThomasHobbes is one of the most remarkable philosophers of the seventeenth century whomade an exceptional contribution in modern political philosophy and liberalsociety.
What is interesting, his perception of the world is still relevant andapplicable in the contemporary politics even nowadays. Being a great believerof the freedom through the limited government, Hobbes wrote his best known bookLeviathan (1651) and draw first full exposition of the concept of the socialcontract – the central approach both in political and moral philosophy. Moreover,Thomas Hobbes determined nineteenth laws of nature (Hobbes & Oakeshott1997), explaining natural law. Along with that he developed the concept ofself-interested cooperation, which leads to the above mentioned social contact.This is a vast part of the right of self-preservation as a fundamental right.
Liberty itself Hobbes analyses from different perspectives, undermining thefact that for the sake of security people are ready to give up their liberties.’Presented in Leviathan is the belief that that there is a naturally-presentquality of liberty in every human being, defined by his or her strength and individualinclinations, which is restricted only insofar as external forces restrict it’ (TheCambridge Diaries 2015). In Chapter XXXVII of Leviathan the author highlightsthe right of individual ‘A private man has always the liberty, because thoughtis free, to believe or not believe in his heart those acts that have been givenout for miracles, according as he shall see what benefit can accrue, by men’sbelief, to those that pretend or countenance them, and thereby conjecture whetherthey be miracles or lies’ (The Millenium Project 2017).