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The Two Modern Liberties of Constant and Berlin

Dimova-Cookson, Maria (2022) 'The Two Modern Liberties of Constant and Berlin.', History of European Ideas, 48 (3). pp. 229-245.


The paper challenges the general perception that the positive-negative freedom discourse privileges negative liberty. It demonstrates that Constant and Berlin’s dual freedom conceptual scheme contains the blueprint of a modern concept of positive freedom and it reveals the nature of negative freedom in an entirely new light. Constant’s ancient and modern liberties have many similarities with Berlin’s two concepts of freedom – positive and negative. The paper shows that these similarities warrant a parallel study and allow us to examine the relation between the two sides of the freedom dichotomy by using the compound terms modern/negative and ancient/positive freedom. The paper answers a question that so far has been unresolved: do the two liberties clash with each other or are they interdependent and mutually supplementary? It shows that understanding the relation between the two freedoms depends on accepting ancient/positive liberty as practiced by the participants of modern revolutions. Then we can see why this freedom can both violate and complement modern/negative freedom. The paper argues that the combined tension and mutual dependency of the two freedoms can be explained by tapping into a metaphysical study of human agency, where metaphysics is understood as conceptualisation of moral experience. This helps demonstrate why Constant’s modern liberty and Berlin’s negative liberty rely on satisfaction as a key category reflecting individuals’ capacity for subjective judgement.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:14 March 2022
Date deposited:28 March 2022
Date of first online publication:30 March 2022
Date first made open access:01 April 2022

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