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Liberty is often thought of as the freedom to do as one pleases, but this doesn’t capture the full complexity of the concept. Philosophers have long debated the nature of liberty and its relationship to other concepts like justice and rights.

At its core, liberty is the power or right to act according to one’s own will. This includes both the freedom to act without interference from others and the freedom to act in ways that are not restricted by law. Liberty is often thought of as a broad concept that encompasses many different types of freedoms, but it can also be thought of as a specific type of freedom, such as the freedom to practice one’s religion or the freedom to speak one’s mind.

While liberty is often thought of as a positive concept, it can also have negative connotations. For example, when someone is said to be “free from restraint,” this usually means that they are not subject to any external controls or limitations. However, this type of liberty can also lead to chaos and disorder if people are not held accountable for their actions. What Is Liberty: Definition, Explanation & Meaning.

What Is Liberty?

It is necessary for every human being to have certain basic freedoms through which he can attain his best for himself and give his best to the society. The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, through their Fundamental Rights, enforceable in court of law, in case of violation.

The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in our Preamble have been taken from the French Revolution (1789–1799).

This idea perhaps begot the idea of ‘inalienable rights of human beings’, that is, the rights which cannot be separated from individuals.

The growth of civilisation begot the formation and growth of state and government. The concept of state differed at different places and for different scholars. Some went to the extent of calling it a “necessary evil”, necessary to regulate public life and evil because it put a check on the liberty and freedom of human beings. Since then the very terms ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ have gained an important place in the functioning of the state and the frame work of its laws and also in the fundamental law of the land i.e. the Constitution.

Meaning And Definitions Of Liberty

The term ‘Liberty’ is derived from the Latin word ‘liber’, which means free. But it is very difficult to give a precise meaning of liberty. “The word ‘free’ is one which is often used, especially by politicians, but it is not always clear what is meant.”

The dictionary meaning of the term liberty shows the varied uses to which the term is put. Liberty is “freedom from constraint, captivity, or tyranny; freedom to do as one pleases; the unstrained enjoyment of natural rights; power of free choice; privilege; permission; free range; leisure; disposal; the bounds in which certain privileges are enjoyed; a limited area outside the prison in which the prisoners are allowed to live; presumptions or undue freedom; speech or action violating ordinary civility.”

Gilchrist says: ‘Everyone has a vague notion of liberty of some kind and a desire for it, but among the people using the term, perhaps no two will be able to say exactly what they mean, or, if they do say it, will agree with each other in their definitions.” Leacock, while pointing out the difficulties in giving an exact meaning to the term ‘liberty’ says, “Such terms as liberty, freedom and free are used in a variety of senses and great latitude of connotation…the term liberty is used also as a vague generality to stand for something evidently desirable and yet so simple in its nature as to need no further definition. It is freely assumed that every one ought to have complete liberty and that every violation of liberty is an injustice without the need being felt for any special inquiry into the meaning of liberty itself.”


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In spite of the difficulties of a ‘precise meaning’ and ‘different connotations’ of the term liberty, a few definitions can be examined that, give the essence of what it conveys. Thus, Massino Salvadori says: ‘Liberty is free choice, each individual’s own decision concerning his own course of action: it belongs to himself, not to the external world that surrounds him.” D.D. Raphael says, “Freedom means absence of restraints. A man is free so far as he is not restrained from doing what he wants to do or what he would choose to do if he knew that he could. The idea of choice itself implies a kind of freedom. Choice in the selection of one possibility among others…”

According to J.S. Mill, “The only freedom that deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it.” J.S. Mill also said, “Over Himself, over his mind, body and soul, the individual is sovereign.” Laski considered liberty as, ‘the absence of restraints upon the existence of those social conditions which in modern civilization is are a necessary guarantee of individual happiness.’

In brief liberty is the “affirmation by an individual or a group of his or its own essence.” It implies a harmonious balance of personality, absence of restraints, and organisational opportunities for the exercise of continuous initiative. Liberty now we understand is an important ingredient of civil society.

Liberty Explanation

Liberty as elaborated in the Preamble is very essential for the successful functioning of the Indian democratic system. However, liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do what one likes, and has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself. In brief, the liberty conceived by the Preamble or fundamental rights is not absolute but qualified.

Read Also: Fundamental Rights, Articles, Types, Functions Explained

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