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Title: Re-sourcing the Self?
Subtitle: Isaiah Berlin and Charles Taylor: The Tension between Freedom and Authenticity
Author(s): NYS, Thomas R.V.
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 11    Issue: 4   Date: 2004   
Pages: 215-227
DOI: 10.2143/EP.11.4.519087

Abstract :
The aim of this article is to compare the theories of Isaiah Berlin and Charles Taylor with regard to the topic of freedom. I will argue that Berlin’s famous positive-negative distinction still serves an important purpose by maintaining a crucial tension within the concept of liberty. This tension allows ethical pluralism to be taken seriously instead of being covered up by ideological retorics. Berlin held that the implementation of positive liberty – defining the boundaries of true liberty – is always problematic. Taylor, however, tries to by-pass the gap between negative and positive liberty by means of his concept of authenticity. I will argue that this notion is a sound descriptive term for an individual’s entrenchment in community, but that the normative appeal from authenticity amounts to a project of ‘re-sourcing the self’ which is ultimately rooted in an optimist perspective on pluralism and multiculturalism. However, to the extent that there are indeed different communities with different values and different ways of being authentic, it is worthwhile to repeat the Berlinian Grundgedanke that human beings should cope with the inexorable and irreducible tragedy in moral life.

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