: Visions of Freedom

Noël O’Sullivan

in The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262948
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734762 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

: Visions of Freedom

Show Summary Details


This chapter considers four of the most influential visions that characterized the response to totalitarianism, and in particular the various concepts of limit they provide, since those are the basis of the opposition which each vision sought to oppose to the totalitarian ideal. The first vision is the positivist one of Karl Popper, for whom the logic of scientific method offers the only genuine knowledge of man and society. The second great vision is that of Berlin, who abandons positivism and instead presents the human condition in tragic terms, on the grounds that it is intrinsically characterized by a plurality of incommensurable and conflicting values. A third vision situates positivism in a naturalistic portrait of the human condition. Finally, there is the ‘civil’ vision of Michael Oakeshott, which is ultimately grounded in a radical, anti-reductionist conception of human freedom.

Keywords: totalitarianism; Karl Popper; Berlin; scientific method; positivism; Michael Oakeshott

Chapter.  10554 words. 

Subjects: Politics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at British Academy »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.