William Galston’s liberalism

Kort sammanfattning av Galstons liberalism.

William Galston’s liberalism is built on two basic concepts: “expressive liberty” and “political pluralism”. In the “diversity state” which William Galston sketches as an ideal, individuals have expressive liberty, which basically is “a robust though rebuttable presumption in favour of individuals and groups leading their lives as they see fit” (2002, 3). More specifically, it is defined as:

[The] absence of constraints, imposed by some individuals on others, that make it impossible (or significantly more difficult) for the affected individuals to live their lives in ways that express their deepest beliefs about what gives meaning or value to life. (2002, 28)

What does this entail? One illuminating example is Galston’s stance on the case of Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Scools, Inc. The case involved a private fundamentalist school that decided not to renew the contract of a female teacher due to its religious views on gender roles, views that included the belief that mothers with small children should not work outside their homes. Galston supported the faith school and argued that to force it to rehire the teacher would hinder the religious community (that send their children to this school) to exercise its religious views in practise (1995, 532). To decide otherwise would be an infringement on expressive liberty, as this is meant to protect “the opportunity to enjoy a fit between inner and outer, belief and practise” (2002, 28). Expressive liberty thus carries over into an emphasis on freedom of association; it implies a presumption against “external interference with individual and group endeavors” (2002, 3). In the case of Dayton, this means that the sexual discrimination committed by the school does not warrant intervention by the state (to force it to rehire and compensate the woman). There must be limits on “the polity’s ability to enforce even core public commitments on subcommunities when these principles clash with religious convictions” (1995, 532).

Still, the presumption for non-intervention is “rebuttable”. Galston enumerates four kinds of reasons that may licence liberal public institutions to restrict the activities of individuals and groups:

[F]irst, to reduce coordination problems and conflict among diverse legitimate activities and to adjudicate such conflict when it cannot be avoided; second, to prevent and when necessary punish transgressions individuals may commit against one another; third, to guard the boundary separating legitimate from illegitimate variations among ways of life; and finally, to secure the conditions — including cultural and civic conditions — needed to sustain public institutions over time (2002, 3).

This might be seen as a fairly conventional list; what makes for Galston’s diversity-state is rather his conception of where the boundaries are to be drawn regarding each of these conditions. Importantly, the boundaries are to be drawn in such a way that there exist ”social space” even for illiberal groups to live as they please. Looking at the conditions above this involves both the third condition, a wide scope of the range of legitimate ways of life; and the second, a narrow conception of what is to count as “transgressions” between people. Specifically, Galston does not in general count as a transgression those illiberal practices between individuals within such groups.

This idea of social space brings us to the second key concept in Galston’s thought: political pluralism. This is the recognition of that social life comprises of multiple sources of moral authority; and that none of them — individuals, civil associations, religious communities, the state — ought to be dominant in all spheres of life and on all occasions (2005, 1-2) Liberal public institutions should not be “plenipotentiary”: there exist no carte blanche for intervention in the internal life of groups or the workings of all the intermediate bodies and associations that make up civil society.

Expressive liberty and political pluralism together provide a case for giving great priority to freedom of association whenever this clashes with other values. Galston’s liberalism thus implies a “systematic deference to associational claims”. The state “bears a burden of proof whenever it seeks to intervene” (2002, 9).

Not to take this burden of proof seriously, and thus regard the state as plenipotentiary, Galston in his latest book calls “civic totalism” (2005, 24–28). Totalism is the rejection of political pluralism: it is the demand that the liberal principles guiding the political institutions must also “ramify through the rest of its citizens’ lives” (2005, 28). Hence the intermediate associations and communities in between the individual citizen and the state — in short, civil society — must be organized along these principles. Galston, however, rejects this notion that “the inner structure and principles of every sphere must mirror those of basic political of basic political institutions” (2005, 3). One recurrent example is that religious communities may fill its positions of authority along gender-based norms. While such norms would be forbidden in public and business life, the state must not interfere with such communities. The public principle (in this case gender-equality) might be both liberal in content and democratically chosen, and yet liberal-democratic societies should not impose it.

“We often use the phrase “liberal democracy,” but we don’t always think about it very carefully. The noun points to a particular structure of politics in which decisions are made, directly or indirectly, by the people as a whole, and more broadly, to an understanding of politics in which all legitimate power flows from the people. The adjective points to a particular understanding of the scope of politics, in which the domain of legitimate political decision-making is seen as inherently limited (2005, 1).

In reminding about this notion of the limited scope of politics, Galston emphasise that liberalism’s principal value is that of toleration. A notion that, “rightly understood”, Galston says, “means the principled refusal to use coercive state power to impose one’s views on others” (2005, 4).

These are the general features of Galston’s liberalism. To support them theoretically he now invokes the notion of value pluralism. This is “the account of the moral world offered by Isaiah Berlin” (2002, 4). As Galston notes, the closing pages of Berlin’s ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in which Berlin propounded the idea of value pluralism, sparked a lively interest in this idea amongst political and moral philosophers. Let us now turn directly to those passages in Berlin, and then to one of those philosophers, Bernard Williams, before returning to Galston and the way he makes use of these ideas.


William Galston (1995), ‘Two Concepts of Liberalism’, Ethics, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp. 516–534.

William Galston (2002), Liberal Pluralism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

William Galston (2005), The Practise of Liberal Pluralism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Isaiah Berlin och det liberala dilemmat gällande utbildning

Som vissa av bloggens läsare vet så skriver jag för tillfället på en uppsats angående ett liberalt dilemma angående utbildning. Dilemmat formuleras bra av Eamonn Callan:

[S]ome people want to deny their own children particular educational opportunities or experiences that are widely regarded as necessary to the good of every individual child. They want this not out of malice toward their children but because they sincerely subscribe to an understanding of what counts as a good human life that is repugnant to the cultural mainstream. That understanding entails a conception of education that seems deeply harmful to children from the perspective of the mainstream. What is at stake here is [. . .] a collision between parental choice and the basic interests (as the larger society defines those interests) of individual children. If parental choice is thwarted in such cases, we have what seems to many people a violation of freedom of conscience. If parental choice is accommodated, children are denied at least part of the education to which many people will think them morally entitled. (2006, 262)

Min uppsats går ut på att undersöka Isaiah Berlins politiska tänkande med detta liberala dilemma i åtanke.

Callan argumenterar i den aktuella artikeln mot William Galston, som angående det kända fallet Wisconsin v. Yoder argumenterar för föräldrars rätt att undandra sina barn från utbildning som strider mot deras (föräldarnas) övertygelser. Utifrån Galstons version av liberalism är detta rätt och rimligt. Intressant är att Galston grundar sin liberalism filosofiskt i Berlins idéer om värdepluralism och har därmed skapat en ”liberal pluralism” i Berlins efterföljd. I min uppsats försöker jag utröna vad Berlin skulle kunna tänkas säga om detta dilemma. Endast vid ett fåtal tillfällen skriver Berlin direkt om utbildning. Men dessa stycken (citerade nedan) är klart i motsättning till Galston. De har en upplysningsliberal ton som knappast är förenlig med Galstons ackommoderande linje gentemot föräldrar som av exempelvis religiösa skäl vill undanhålla sina barn från viss typ av kunskap eller framställandet av vissa livsstilar som de finner anstötliga. Min förhoppning med uppsatsen är dock inte att blott peka ut dessa stycken, utan även att argumentera att att de följer utifrån en logik inom Berlins övergripande antaganden och normativa ståndpunkter. I min uppsats hoppas jag kunna förklara detta, och genom att göra jämförelser till några av Galstons kritiker inom den samtida politiska teorin (främst Callan och George Crowder), visa att Berlins liberalism och värdepluralism innebär att det är giltigt att fastslå individuell autonomi och kritiskt tänkande som legitima mål för skolan, även när dessa mål krockar med föräldrarnas övertygelser, värdet av kulturell tillhörighet, osv.

Eamonn Callans hållning är följande:

I claim that Galston underestimates considerations within his own theory that might tell against deference to parental choice. In particular, he overlooks the extent to which restricting parental choice may be necessary to the expressive liberty of children because of the internal connection between their liberty and the avoidance of servility in their education. Here again Yoder is revealing. I show that considerations of children’s prospective interest in liberty make a reasonable case for regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in Yoder as morally unfortunate. (2006, 263)

Ett av de två centrala stycket i Berlin som jag tänkte ta upp ligger i linje med detta, specifikt det Callan kallar för ”considerations of children’s prospective interest in liberty”. Vid ett tillfälle då Berlin ska förklara hur man kan resonera utifrån hans utgångspunkter gällande frihet, oundvikligheten i moraliska konflikter, osv, så tar han som exempel frågan om att införa ett offentligt och enhetligt utbildningssystem. Detta finner Berlin önskvärt, och han säger sig resonera på följande sätt:

If I were told that this must severely curtail the liberty of parents who claim the right not to be interfered with in this matter — that it was an elementary right to be allowed to choose the type of education to be given to one’s child, to determine the intellectual, religious, social, economic conditions in which the child is to be brought up — I should not be ready to dismiss this outright. But I should maintain that when (as in this case) values genuinely clash, choices must be made. In this case the clash arises between the need to preserve the existing liberty of some parents to determine the type of education they seek for their children; the need to promote other social purposes; and, finally, the need to create conditions in which those who lack them will be provided with opportunities to exercise those rights (freedom to choose) which they legally possess, but cannot, without such opportunities, put to use. (2002, 46)

Jag tänkte koppla detta till Joel Feinbergs kända idé, utvecklad i respons till Yoder, om ”the child’s right to an open future”. Det finns likheter, även om Berlin inte kan ses som en rättighetsteoretiker av Feinbergs släkte. Men en rätt till en ”öppen framtid” tycks återfinnas även i det andra stycket av vikt som jag har hittat. Jag vill argumentera att samma skäl som gör att Berlin att förespråkar långtgående tolerans överlag, samma skäl gör det rimligt med starkt begränsade möjligheter för föräldrar att medvetet begränsa sina barns utbildning och förmåga till egna livsval. Läs nu följande stycken, ur ett långt brev till George Kennan (publicerat i volymen Liberty):

What horrifies one about Soviet or Nazi practise is not merely the suffering and the cruelty, since although that is bad enough, it is something which history has produced too often, and to ignore its apparent inevitability is perhaps real Utopianism – no; what turns one inside out, and is indescribable, is the spectacle of one set of persons who so tamper and ‘get at’ others that the others do their will without knowing what they are doing; and in this lose their status as free human beings, indeed as human beings at all.

Certainly we do not detest this kind of destruction of liberty merely because it denies liberty of action; there is a far greater horror in depriving men of the very capacity for freedom – that is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.
[. . . ]
If pushed to the extreme, this doctrine would, of course, do away with all education, since when we send children to school or influence them in other ways without obtaining their approval for what we are doing, are we not ’tampering’ with them, ’moulding’ them like pieces of clay with no purpose of their own? Our answer has to be that certainly all ’moulding’ is evil, and that if human beings at birth had the power of choice and the means of understanding the world, it would be criminal; since they have not, we temporarily enslave them, for fear that, otherwise, they will suffer worse misfortunes from nature and from men, and this ’temporary enslavement’ is a necessary evil until such time as they are able to choose for themselves – the ’enslavement’ having as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice; still, evil it remains even if necessary. (2002, 339–42)

Vad jag vill hämta ur detta är naturligtvis att den liberala friheten att göra egna livsval också har tydliga implikationer gällande utbildning. Vad jag vill bygga på är tanken att liberalismen innefattar —måste innefatta, trots att den historiskt varit ovillig till det — både en teori om vilka faktiska preferenser som ska tolereras men också en idé om processen genom vilken preferenserna skapas. (Kanske jag här överdriver detta tomrum i liberal teori. Åtminstone enligt Brian Barry, s. 200) Människor föds inte med färdiga preferenser och inte heller med ”the power of choice and the means of understanding the world”. Det är pga detta som skola och utbildning inte kan behandlas som vilken annan samhällsinstitution som helst. Notera att diskussionen här blott är en del i en större debatt. Nämligen den mellan ”autonomi-liberaler” och ”tolerans-liberaler”. Och notera, som David Thunder, att “this toleration-autonomy debate is not merely a ‘family dispute’ about some fine points of liberal theory”.

On the contrary, the outcome of this dispute has dramatic implications for societies where deep religious and cultural differences are either well-entrenched (say, the U.S.) or growing at a fast rate (say, France or Germany). If we adopt a tolerationist stance, social groups and social infrastructures (e.g. schools, hospitals, businesses) devoted to tradition-based ways of life involving, say, arranged marriages, intellectual submission to religious authority, some form of patriarchal social structure, and the limited exposure of members to “alternative ways of life,” may be permitted to exist and reproduce themselves, albeit against the backdrop of a liberal juridical and economic order that includes freedom of association. If, on the other hand, we adopt a pro-autonomy stance, the State and its agents may be authorized to control, either through legal rules or educational policies or both, the internal practices of associations—and presumably, of families—to ensure that their members develop an adequate capacity for personal autonomy, albeit in a prudent and even-handed manner. (Thunder 2009, 155)

Bland dessa ”sociala infrastrukturer” vill jag alltså hävda att skolsystemet har en sådan funktion att den generella debatten mellan tolerans och autonomi inte är rakt av överförbar. Givet en mångfald av preferenser kan vi i övriga fall välkomna en mångfald inom en given social infrastruktur, för en sådan mångfald gör det möjligt för medborgarna att leva sina liv efter eget huvud och känsla för mening. Fortfarande är det så att autonomi-liberalen kan påminna om de fall inom dessa infrastrukturer och sammanslutningar där individer far illa eller hindras från att lämna, och vi kan i sådana fall diskutera legitimiteten i statlig intervention för att upprätthålla vissa liberala värden och individuella rättigheter. Här har vi då tolerans/autonomi-debatten i sin generella form.

Men är skolan en institution om alla andra? Vad bör den liberala friheten innebära här? Isaiah Berlin citerar John Stuart Mill: “The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way”. Och skriver:

If this is so, is compulsion ever justified? Mill had no doubt that it was. Since justice demands that all individuals be entitled to a minimum of freedom, all other individuals were of necessity to be restrained, if need be by force, from depriving anyone of it. (2002, 174)

Tänk att individerna x och y väljer fritt att inrätta sitt liv på så sätt att de går med i en sekt och lever efter vissa värderingar. De besitter ”the power of choice and the means of understanding the world” och de utövar nu sin rätt att ”pursuing our own good in our own way”. Men vad händer om x och y får barn? Ska deras frihet innebära att de och deras sekt tillåts sörja för barnens skolgång på ett sådant sätt att dessa barn inte vet något om yttervärlden, inte något om andra sätt att leva, eller blir intalade att andra sätt att leva leder till helvetet. Eller vore detta ett sätt att beskära dessa barns frihet, vilket isåfall innbär att föräldrarna rätteligen borde bli ”restrained, if need be by force” från att undandra barnen från en allsidig öppen utbildning? Detta är således alldeles oberoende om det sätt att leva som sekten utövar anses legitimt och rätt av staten att tolerera. Jag tror att Berlins utgångspunkter måste leda till en sådan slutsats. För notera kraftfulla i att den vision om människans fria val hade som konsekvens att i teorin ”do away with all education”. Den enda legitima form av utbildning är i liberala ögon den som har ”as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice”. Denna sociala infrastruktur skulle annars helt sakna existensberättigande.  Strider sådan utbildning mot föräldrarnas önskan måste liberalen sätta ner foten, precis som i fall där vuxna sinsemellan kränker varandras frihet.

Går det att finna stöd för detta hos Isaiah Berlin. En teoretiker som skrivit om Berlin ifråga om utbildning är Neil Burtonwood. Men han håller med Galston. I en passage som jag förmodligen kommer kritisera i min uppsats skriver han:

In supporting separate schools for the children of non-liberal cultural minorities liberals should be able to recognise the gains that will be made in terms of cultural congruence and a sense of belonging but they will also have to accept that this entails a loss of individual autonomy. This is only problematic if autonomy is granted absolute status as some kind of foundational human value. As Berlin observes, the reality is a trade-off between human values. There comes a point where we have to make a choice, and for Berlin the genuine liberal does not require that individuals choose autonomy. (Burtonwood 2000, 282)

Är inte detta stycke förvirrat? Individer är visserligen inte är tvingade att ”välja” autonomi, men har de rätt att undandra denna möjlighet för sina barn? Det är ju detta hela frågan handlar om. Man är fri att inträda i en sekt och därmed kanske inordna sig i ett icke-liberalt levnadssätt, kanske även avsäga sig framtida möjligheter till autonoma val. Liberaler kan inte, precis som Burtonwood säger, tvinga människor att ”välja” autonomi. Det finns andra värden: ”cultural belonging”, osv. Men vem ska göra avvägningen mellan dessa värden? Det är det som är frågan. Den som är kritisk mot denna typ av skolor behöver inte vara det pga en idé om att ett autonomt liv är det enda goda (vilket Burtonwood säger: ”this is only problematic if. . .”). Att kräva ”en öppen framtid” innebär inte att autonomi görs till det enda legitima sättet att leva.

Ja, det var några korta punkter om vad min uppsats handlar om. Synpunkter tas tacksamt emot. Som brukligt när man skriver uppsats så har jag varit ute och seglat på de vida haven, läst vitt och brett, innan jag lyckats smalna av ordentligt. Ett tag lämnade jag Berlin helt och ägnade mig åt samtida teoretiker, men nu, för att få en striktare ram, har jag återgått till Berlin.

Nu har jag bara 2,5 vecka kvar att skriva. Måste därför släppa lite på perfektionismen och börja hulka upp text på allvar. Usch. Publicerar kanske några stycken här på bloggen allt eftersom. Ni får gärna ge mig ett handtag genom kritik och frågor kring upplevda glapp i tankegångarna.


Berlin, Isaiah (2002), Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Burtonwood, Neil (2002), ’Must Liberal Support for Separate Schools Be Subject to a Condition of Individual Autonomy?’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 269-284.

Callan, Eamonn (2006), ’Galston’s Dilemmas and Wisconsin v. Yoder’, Theory and Research in Education, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 261–273.

Thunder, David (2009), ’Why Value Pluralism Does Not Support the State’s Enforcement of Liberal Autonomy: A Response to Crowder’, Political Theory, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 154–160.

Per Bauhn om burkaförbud

Intet nytt, ändå så uppfriskande.

All politik som ska vila på frihetlig grund måste skilja mellan vad man ogillar och vad man vill förbjuda, mellan att ta avstånd från människors bruk av sin frihet och att ta ifrån dem själva friheten.

Ett samhälle baserat på alla medborgares lika rätt till frihet är förvisso inte ett samhälle där allt är tillåtet. Den som tvingar kvinnor att bära slöja, eller som brukar våld mot sin dotter eller syster för att man ogillar hennes val av pojkvän, eller som hotar författare och journalister för att de utmanar religiösa tabun, kan och bör straffas. Men här berättigas ett ingrepp i förövarens frihet av själva frihetsprincipen. Det är för att försvara allas rätt till frihet som man låser in den som tyranniserar sin omgivning.

Att den som tvingar någon att bära burka ska straffas innebär däremot inte att den som väljer att bära burka ska straffas.

[. . .]

Att man har rätt att bära burka på gator och torg ska emellertid inte tolkas som en rätt att också göra det på arbetsplatsen, vad än svensk diskrimineringslagstiftning vill göra gällande. Alla rum är inte offentliga rum, och arbetsplatsen är inte primärt en arena för utövande av religiös eller politisk övertygelse (om det inte är en religiös eller politisk arbetsplats, förstås). Lika lite som de troende har en rätt att predika i mitt vardagsrum, lika lite har de en rätt att kräva av en arbetsgivare att hon ska anställa en man som vägrar att ta henne i hand med hänvisning till sin religion. Att vi respekterar andras frihet att utöva sin religion upphäver ju inte vår egen frihet att slippa ha något med deras religionsutövning att göra.

Den ytliga liberala människosynen — och det totalitära alternativet.

Artikeln ‘The Silence in Russian Culture’ publicerades i Foreign Affairs 1957. Isaiah Berlin beskriver där bland annat den intellektuella bakgrunden till den sovjetiska totalitarianismen.

Over a century ago Russian critics denounced European civilization for its lack of understanding. It seemed to them characteristic of the morally desiccated, limited thinkers of the West to maintain that human activities were not all necessarily interconnected with each other – that what a man did as a writer was one thing and what he did as a citizen was another; that a man might be a good chemist and yet maltreat his family or cheat at cards; that a man might compose profound music and yet hold stupid or immoral political views that were no business of the critics or of the public.

This notion of life, according to Russians of almost all shades of opinion, was artificial and shallow and flew to pieces before the deeper insight of the all-embracing view, according to which the life of individuals and the life of their institutions was one and indivisible. Every faculty and element in the individual were in a state of constant interplay; a man could not be one thing as a painter and another as a citizen, honest as a mathematician and false as a husband; it was impossible to draw frontiers between any aspects of human activity, above all between public and private life.

Any attempt to insulate this or that area from the invasion of outside forces was held to be founded upon the radical fallacy of thinking that the true function and purpose of a human being does not penetrate every one of his acts and relationships – or worse still, that men had, as men, no specific function or purpose at all.

It followed that whatever most fully embodies this ultimate total human purpose – the State, according to the Hegelians; an elite of scientists, artists and managers, according to the followers of Saint-Simon or Comte; the Church, according to those who leaned towards ecclesiastical authority; an elected body of persons embodying the popular or national will, according to democrats or nationalists; the class designated by ”history” to free itself and all mankind, according to Socialists and Communists – this central body had a right to invade everything. The very notion of the inviolability of persons, or of areas of life, as an ultimate principle was nothing but an effort to limit, to narrow, to conceal, to shut out the light, to preserve privilege, to protect some portion of ourselves from the universal truth – and therefore the central source of error, weakness and vice.

Isaiah Berlin, ‘The Silence in Russian Culture‘, Foreign Affairs,  Vol. 36, No. 1 (Okt. 1957) , s. 4-5.

Berlins frihetsbegrepp och värdeteori

Några spridda anteckningar:

De tankar som Isaiah Berlin uttryckte i brevet till George Kennan har en kantiansk, upplysningsliberal ton i högre grad än vad som brukar förknippas med Berlin. Bör bilden av honom förändras i denna riktning?

Två som tycker det är George Crowder och Joshua Cherniss. I båda deras bidrag i volymen The One and the Many: Reading Isaiah Berlin (Crowder & Hardy 2007) påpekas att ofta misstolkas Berlins ”Two Concepts of Liberty” till att betyda ett ensidigt ställningstagande för negativ frihet. Positiv frihet är inte ett fullständigt falskt eller värdelöst frihetsbegrepp; Berlins huvudpoäng är att det så enkelt kan missbrukas, förvanskas och användas för att legitimera förtryck (Crowder 2007, s. 228).

Joshua Cherniss studie av Berlins tidiga politiska filosofi visar också att Berlin ”was less straightforwardly wedded to the ’negative’ concept, and more sympathetic to some elements of the ’positive’ conception, than many readings of TCL suggest.” Dessa tidiga texter visar på en större sympati för ”the idea of autonomy (defined not as rule by reason or self-given law, but as ability independently to set the direction of one’s own life)”. (Cherniss 2007, 95)

Denna idé om autonomi uttrycks klart i Berlins sätt att legitimera utbildning av barn i brevet till Kennan. Ett brev som enligt Cherniss visar på . . .

. . . the influence on Berlin of Kantian ethics, which his later emphasis on pluralism has tended to obscure. Berlin was never an adherent of Kant’s rationalistic moral theory; but his conception of human dignity was deeply influenced by Kant, to whom he traced his belief in the evil of using human beings ’as means to ends that are not their own, but those of the manipulator, the treatment of free beings as if they were things, tools’. [. . .] [It] was from Kant that he derived important aspects of his own theory of values. Kant, Berlin explained, argued that individuals were ends in themselves ’because they were the sole authors of moral values’. Values existed, not in nature, but only in the wills of individuals. Human beings, as the authors of all genuine values, could not be sacrificed to anything other than their own purposes, without ’stultifying the absoluteness, the end-in-itselfness’ of values. From this it also followed that all individuals were morally equal, because all were equally creators, carriers and fulfillers of values. This was the basis of the liberal belief in the ’right to develop one’s individual capacity’ . . . (Cherniss 2007, 109; citaten är från Berlin 2006, 151 & 154)

Den bild som Cherniss målar upp kan jämföras med Bhikhu Parekhs kritik av Berlin:

Berlin is ambiguous about the nature of values and seems to oscillate between the extremes of objectivism and subjectivism. Sometimes he argues that men ‘choose’, ‘accept’ or ‘commit’ themselves to certain values, implying that the values exist independently of human choice. This is Platonism in a pluralist disguise. Like Plato’s ideas the ultimate values occupy a realm of their own and inspire men to commit themselves to any one of them. On other occasions Berlin takes the opposite view. As we saw, he says that there is ‘no principle or value higher than the ends of the individual’ and that all values ‘are made so by the free acts of man’. It is difficult to see how such a view can be sustained. To say that whatever an individual chooses is a value, and that all such values are ultimate, is to imply that the purposes men follow and the choices they make are beyond moral evaluation, and that is simply not true. We would not allow a Hitler to claim that his purposes are sacred, ultimate and beyond criticism. While it makes sense to say that men are the sole authors of values in the sense that the systems of values do not grow on trees but are products of human decisions, it does not follow, and is in any case empirically false, to say that every man is the sole author of his values. Since Berlin slides from man in the collective to man in the singular sense, he does not notice that what can plausibly be said about men in the plural becomes false when said of each individually. (Parekh 1982, 224)

I en not till detta stycke skriver Parekh att Berlin klargjort för honom att ”he does not subscribe to moral subjektivism”. (Jfr. Cherniss 2006, s. xlii & xliv.)

I somras läste jag Berlins Political Ideas in the Romantic Age (PIRA), ett förarbete (som först publicerades 2006) till bland annat Berlins fyra essäer om frihet och en del andra föreläsningar och essäer om både upplysningen och romantiken. Där kan man läsa att de som förespråkar det rätta frihetsbegreppet kan legitimera det på följande sätt:

[The] wishes and ideals of […] men are to be respected  […] very much as Kant recommended, though not perhaps for one of his explicit reasons – not because they are rational beings (whatever may be meant by that) – but really for his other reason, that men are ends in themselves because they are the sole source of all morality, the beings for whose sake alone whatever is worth doing is worth doing, because the notion of ends in themselves is one of ends which men invent for themselves, and there is therefore nothing outside them to which thay can in principle be deemed worthy of sacrifice. (Berlin 2006, 206)

Denna vänding, från att värden upptäcks till att de skapas, identifierar Berlin i PIRA som romantikens huvudsakliga bidrag till västerlandets idéhistoriska utveckling.

För att återgå till frihetsbegreppet: Cherniss föreslår att det bästa sättet att beskriva Berlins frihetsbegrepp är att gå bortom negativ och positiv frihet och istället tala om ett ”basic concept of liberty as the ability to make choices for oneself”. Traditionellt har Berlins försvar för individualitet och fritt val tolkats som ett ensidigt försvar för negativ frihet, men Cherniss tillägger att . . .

. . . it contained an element of ’positive’ liberty as well, for it included not only freedom from coercion, but also the exercise of the ability to choose and to will, to act in accordance with one’s own beliefs, to select and pursue ideals for oneself – that is, a form of self-rule or autonomy.” (Cherniss 2007, 115)


  • Berlin, Isaiah (2006), Political Ideas in the Romantic Age, (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
  • Cherniss, Joshua L. (2007), ’Berlin’s Early Political Thought’, i Crowder & Hardy 2007.
  • Cherniss, Joshua L. (2006), ’Isaiah Berlin’s Political Ideas: From the Twentieth Century to the Romantic Age’, i Berlin 2006.
  • Crowder, George & Hardy, Henry (2007) (red.), The One and the Many: Reading Isaiah Berlin (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books)
  • Crowder, George (2007), ’Value Pluralism and Liberalism: Berlin and Beyond’, i Crowder & Hardy 2007.
  • Parekh, Bhikhu (1982), ’The Political Thought of Sir Isaiah Berlin’, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 201–226.

Isaiah Berlin om liberalismen och rättfärdigandet av utbildning och fostran av barn

1951 brevväxlade Isaiah Berlin med den berömde amerikanske diplomaten George Kennan (upphovsmannnen till ‘containment’-politiken gentemot Sovjet). Breven mellan dessa figurer, båda två starkt förknippade med begreppet ‘cold war liberalism’, kom att handla om just innebörden av ett liberalt samhälle och om berättigandet av dess principer.

En central aspekt är att ett liberalt samhälle inte manipulerar (”tamper”) eller formar (”mould”) sina medborgare till lydiga undersåtar utan låter dem utvecklas till fria individer.

What I take you to say, and what I should have said myself if I had had the wit or the depth, is that the one thing which no utilitarian paradise, no promise of eternal harmony in the future within some vast organic whole will make us accept is the use of human beings as mere means – the doctoring of them until they are made to do what they do, not for the sake of purposes which are their purposes, fulfilment of hopes which however foolish or desperate are at least their own, but for reasons which only we, the manipulators, who freely twist them for our purposes, can understand. What horrifies one about Soviet or Nazi practise is not merely the suffering and the cruelty, since although that is bad enough, it is something which history has produced too often, and to ignore its apparent inevitability is perhaps real Utopianism – no; what turns one inside out, and is indescribable, is the spectacle of one set of persons who so tamper and ‘get at’ others that the others do their will without knowing what they are doing; and in this lose their status as free human beings, indeed as human beings at all.

[. . . ]

Certainly we do not detest this kind of destruction of liberty merely because it denies liberty of action; there is a far greater horror in depriving men of the very capacity for freedom – that is the real sin against the Holy Ghost. Everything else is bearable so long as the possibility of goodness – of a state of affairs in which men freely choose, disinterestedly seek their ends for their own sake – is still open, however much suffering they may have gone through. Their souls are destroyed only when this is no longer possible. It is when the desire for choice is broken that what men do thereby loses all moral value, and actions lose all significance (in terms of good and evil) in their own eyes; that is what is meant by destroying people’s self-respect, by turning them, in your words, into rags.

Men om motståndet till denna typ av manipulering är kännetecknet för att liberalt samhälle så uppkommer ett problem. På vilka grunder kan ett sådant samhälle legitimera utbildning och fostran av sina barn?

If pushed to the extreme, this doctrine would, of course, do away with all education, since when we send children to school or influence them in other ways without obtaining their approval for what we are doing, are we not ’tampering’ with them, ’moulding’ them like pieces of clay with no purpose of their own? Our answer has to be that certainly all ’moulding’ is evil, and that if human beings at birth had the power of choice and the means of understanding the world, it would be criminal; since they have not, we temporarily enslave them, for fear that, otherwise, they will suffer worse misfortunes from nature and from men, and this ’temporary enslavement’ is a necessary evil until such time as they are able to chosose for themselves – the ’enslavement’ having as its purpose not an inculcation of obedience but its contrary, the development of power of free judgement and choice; still, evil it remains even if necessary.

De som skiljer de kommunistiska och fascistiska samhällena från de liberala är att de förstnämnda vidhåller att detta slags uppfostran inte bara är nödvändigt för barnen utan för hela folket hela tiden, för att skapa det utopiska samhället. Liberaler har ett annat synsätt:

For we, i.e. those who join with us, are more concerned with making people free than making them happy; we would rather that they choose badly than not at all; because we believe that unless they choose they cannot be either happy or unhappy in any sense in which these conditions are worth having; the very notion of ’worth having’ presupposes the choice of ends, a system of free preferences; and an undermining of them is what strikes us with such cold terror, worse than the most unjust sufferings, which nevertheless leave the possibility of knowing them for what they are – of free judgement, which makes it possible to condemn them – still open.

Isaiah Berlin, ”A Letter to George Kennan”, Liberty, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), s. 339–342.