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Isaiah Berlin argues for negative liberty and criticizes positive liberty as a kind of fake liberty which may lead to the problem of despotism. However, for Mencius, in order to confront a corrupted social system, one has to be a great man which exactly implies the idea of positive liberty. This paper argues that while both negative and positive liberties are implicated in Mencius’ thought, Mencius’ main concern is positive liberty implied in the idea of a great man; and the ground of his implicit acceptance of negative liberty is different from Berlin’s. I also explore how Mencius’ philosophy can respond to Berlin’s criticism of positive liberty. This study attempts to evaluate positive liberty, and to affirm its significance in the light of Mencius’ philosophy.
Isaiah Berlin, Mencius, Liberty, A Great Man