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The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century$
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Jack Hayward, Brian Barry, and Archie Brown

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262948

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262948.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 06 July 2022

: Visions of Freedom

: Visions of Freedom

The Response to Totalitarianism

(p.63) 3: Visions of Freedom
The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century

Noël O’Sullivan

British Academy

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

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