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Choice, blind spots and free will: an autopoietic critique of Isaiah Berlin’s liberalism

Devellennes, Charles (2014) Choice, blind spots and free will: an autopoietic critique of Isaiah Berlin’s liberalism. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 40 (9). pp. 895-911. ISSN 0191-4537. E-ISSN 1461-734X. (doi:10.1177/0191453714545339) (KAR id:43613)


This article shows that the concept of choice is central to Isaiah Berlin’s liberalism. It argues that his valuing of choice is anchored in a particular conception of human nature, one that assumes and presupposes free will. Berlin’s works sketch a metaphysics of choice, and his reluctance to openly situate himself on the debate on free will is unconvincing. By introducing the theory of autopoiesis, this article further suggests that there is a way to take Berlin’s value pluralism seriously, by considering sets of values as autopoietic conscious systems. Drawing on the works of Maturana and Varela in biology and Luhmann in sociology, autopoiesis strengthens value pluralism and acts as a critique of liberalism. By putting objectivity in parenthesis, autopoiesis finally allows for value systems to coexist side by side in a stronger sense than Berlin’s liberalism ever could.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0191453714545339
Uncontrolled keywords: autopoiesis; Isaiah Berlin; choice; free will; Niklas Luhmann
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Charles Devellennes
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2014 09:31 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Devellennes, Charles.

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