Saturday, February 28, 2009

Isaiah Berlin, Human Liberty and President Obama's Denial of One's Human Essence

I received the following email from Charles Freeland (campaign treasurer for Andy Horning's 2000 Libertarian gubernatorial campaign) where quotes his favorite passage from Isaiah Berlin:

"As I see and hear our new president announce and explain his policies, I am drawn back to my favorite passage from Isaiah Berlin.

To manipulate men, to propel them toward goals which you - the social reformer – see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them. That is why to lie to men, or to deceive them, that is to use them as means for my, not their own, independently conceived ends…is, in effect, to treat them as sub-human, to behave as if their ends are less sacred than my own. In the name of what can I ever be justified in forcing men to do what they have not willed or consented to? Only in the name of some value higher than themselves. But if, as Kant held, all values are made so by free acts of men, and called values only so far as they are this, there is no value higher than the individual.

Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty", Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, 1969

Is anyone else feeling like a manipulated, sub-human object without a will of his own?
For anyone interested in a serious discussion of what human liberty really means, I highly recommend Berlin’s essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty.” It is not an easy read, but your investment of a little time will be richly rewarded. I have an electronic copy that I can forward if interested.

Charles M. Freeland"

Thanks Charlie for letting me reprint this for the readers of my blog.

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