In his essay 'Two Concepts of Liberty,' Isaiah Berlin distinguishes between two conceptions of freedom, namely negative and positive conception of freedom. Basically he defines negative liberty as the absence of coercion. He states: 'To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom' (121). According to him, coercion is the intention to interfere in the freedom of an individual.
Thus, absence of coercion is absence of deliberate, intentional coercion. For him, negative liberty requires an immune area, away from the obtrusive action of other people. For the accomplishment of freedom '[s]ome portion of human existence must remain independent of the sphere of social control' (126) However, achievement of negative liberty, creation of the immune area from coercion, is contingent upon the authority to be kept at bay. Therefore, the position of authority, which entails coercive powers, should be controlled in order to make them accountable to the people, whose freedom, immunity from coercion depends on. Positive liberty, on the other hand, is, not freedom from coercion, but freedom to determine one's own destiny: it is self-determination. In this sense positive liberty is a necessary condition of human being, right to choose, right to determine ones behavior.
Berlin maintains that the negative and positive concepts of liberty are 'at no great logical distance from each other,' but in reality they are profoundly divergent, in fact irreconcilable, so much so that positive liberty threatens negative liberty, leading to the possibility of despotism in the name of freedom (131-132) The threat of despotism lies in the reductionist and ultra-rationalistic accounts of human nature, which turns the concept of positive liberty into a tyranny of alleged "rational" over so-called "irrational" and consequently leads even to the restriction of negative liberty. Therefore Berlin, proposes rejection of positive liberty for the preservation of relatively safe negative notion of liberty. I do believe that, the problem and philosophical decision to choose negative liberty, lies in the obscurity of the two conceptions of liberty in Berlin's analysis. In fact, the differentiation of these two conceptions is not clear in his analysis and both of them contain the same conception without incompatibility for leading us to choose one among of them. As he says: "The essence of the notion of liberty, both in the 'positive' and in the 'negative's ensues, is the holding off of something to someone - of others who trespass on my field or asset their authority over me, or of obsessions, fears, neuroses, irrational forces - intrudes and despots of one kind and another." Negative and positive liberties are not mutually exclusive concepts. The real differentiating force, for the two them lies in practice, the differentiation that history brought on the concept of liberty.
The conception of negative liberty contains certain notion of positive liberty. The opposite, the notions of negative liberty in positive liberty, having the right to self-determination requires other people not to intervene to the immune area, it requires the person to be away from coercion. As a consequence, it can be claimed that, the two conceptions of liberty in Berlin's analysis are interconnected to a great extent and cannot conceptualized in an irreconcilable way. In fact, what we face in his analysis is a single, theoretical concept of freedom and two different interpretations of it. They are just, two different realization of the same phenomenon in different historical context with different appearances.