San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



In this Article, I want to suggest a third line of argument that can be retrieved from Two Concepts. It is primarily methodological. It enjoins political theorists to define the extension of normative concepts in a manner that makes as perspicuous as possible the various normative considerations that are relevant to political decisionmaking. Although related to the pluralist defense of negative freedom briefly alluded to above, I will suggest that it is distinct from it, and that it allows us to address important but under appreciated lacunae that beset the argument from value pluralism, as well as the argument according to which negative liberty is on consequentialist grounds to be preferred to positive liberty. I will proceed as follows. I will first lay out the argument as I believe that it can be extracted from Two Concepts and from Berlin's work more broadly. I will then provide three independent arguments that I believe can be mounted in favor of the principle of methodological parsimony that I will be ascribing to Berlin. In a third part, I will distinguish the argument from methodological parsimony from the argument from pluralism. I will show that the former argument provides better grounds than does the latter for negative rather than positive liberty. I will also show that it provides a needed complement to the consequentialist argument against positive liberty that, as I suggested, corresponds with the first period of critical reception. Throughout, I will show that the principle of methodological pluralism provides a needed corrective to contemporary theories of freedom situated within the negative liberty family that do not satisfy the criterion of parsimony advocated by Berlin in Two Concepts.