"Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century", Historical Inevitability", "Two Concepts of Liberty", "John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life". These four essays deal with the various aspects of individual liberty, including the distinction between positive and negative liberty and the necessity of rejecting determinism if we wish to keep hold of the notions of human responsibility and freedom.
"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."--Immanuel Kant Isaiah Berlin was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century--an activist of the intellect who marshaled vast erudition and eloquence in defense of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political pluralism. In the Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our present century: between the Platonic belief (...) in absolute Truth and the lure of authoritarianism between the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century fascism between the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant--and sometimes genocidal--nationalism that convulses the modern world. (shrink)
Liberty is an expanded edition of Isaiah Berlin's classic of liberalism, Four Essays on Liberty. Berlin's editor Henry Hardy has incorporated a fifth essay, as Berlin wished, and added further pieces on the same topic, so that Berlin's principal statements on liberty are available together for the first time. He also describes the gestation of the book and throws further biographical light on Berlin's preoccupation with liberty in appendices drawn from his unpublished writings.
In this outstanding collection of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, discusses the importance in the history of thought of dissenters whose ideas still challenge conventional wisdom--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. With his unusual powers of imaginative re-creation, Berlin brings to life original minds that swam against the current of their times.
¿The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.¿ This fragment of Archilochus, which gives this book its title, describes the central thesis of Isaiah Berlin¿s masterly essay on Tolstoy. There have been various interpretations of Archilochus¿ fragment; Isaiah Berlin has simply used it, without implying anything about the true meaning of the words, to outline a fundamental distinction that exists in mankind, between those who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things (foxes) and those who (...) relate everything to a central all-embracing system (hedgehogs). When applied to Tolstoy, the image illuminates a paradox of his philosophy of history, and shows why he was frequently misunderstood by his contemporaries and critics. Tolstoy was by nature a fox, but he believed in being a hedgehog. (shrink)
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year “For anyone wanting to understand the twists and turns of the history of ideas, this book will be indispensable.”―John Gray, New York Times Book Review The Sense of Reality was the last new collection of essays published by Isaiah Berlin in his lifetime. All informed by Berlin’s lifelong fascination with the history of ideas, these engaging studies range widely: the subjects explored include realism in history; judgment in politics; the history of (...) socialism; the nature and impact of Marxism; the radical cultural revolution instigated by the Romantics; Russian notions of artistic commitment; and the origins and practice of nationalism. The title essay, taking its cue from the impossibility of recreating a bygone epoch, is a superb centerpiece. Now with a new foreword by Timothy Snyder and a new appendix comprising a previously unpublished essay on the great Russian critic Vissarion Belinksy and a previously uncollected lecture on utopianism, The Sense of Reality is a rich and illuminating collection from one of the most seductive writers and thinkers of the twentieth century. (shrink)
The essays collected in this new volume reveal Isaiah Berlin at his most lucid and accessible. He was constitutionally incapable of writing with the opacity of the specialist, but these shorter, more introductory pieces provide the perfect starting-point for the reader new to his work. Those who are already familiar with his writing will also be grateful for this further addition to his collected essays. The connecting theme of these essays, as in the case of earlier volumes, is the crucial (...) social and political role--past, present and future--of ideas, and of their progenitors. A rich variety of subject-matters is represented--from philosophy to education, from Russia to Israel, from Marxism to romanticism--so that the truth of Heine's warning is exemplified on a broad front. It is a warning that Berlin often referred to, and provides an answer to those who ask, as from time to time they do, why intellectual history matters. Among the contributions are "My Intellectual Path," Berlin's last essay, a retrospective autobiographical survey of his main preoccupations and "Jewish Slavery and Emancipation," the classic statement of his Zionist views, long unavailable in print. His other subjects include the Enlightenment, Giambattista Vico, Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Herzen, G.V. Plekhanov, the Russian intelligentsia, the idea of liberty, political realism, nationalism, and historicism. The book exhibits the full range of his enormously wide expertise and demonstrates the striking and enormously engaging individuality, as well as the power, of his own ideas. "Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilization."--Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty , 1958. (shrink)
Berlin's intense consciousness of the plurality of values, the nature of historical understanding, and the fragility of human freedom premeates essays ranging from his early debates on logical positivism to his later work.
History details the differences among events, whereas the sciences focus on similarities. History lacks the sciences' ideal models, whose usefulness varies inversely with the number of characteristics to which they apply. As an external observer the scientist willingly distorts the individual to make it an instance of the general, but the historian, himself an actor, renounces interest in the general in order to understand the past through the projection of his own experience upon it. It is the scientist's business to (...) fit the facts to the theory, the historian's responsibility to place his confidence in facts over theories. (shrink)
The first publication of this major work by Isaiah Berlin, regarded by many as the twentieth century’s greatest thinker. It is the only text he ever wrote in which he laid out in one connected account most of his key insights about the “romantic age.”.
Isaiah Berlin's celebrated radio lectures on six formative anti-liberal thinkers were broadcast by the BBC in 1952. They are published here for the first time, fifty years later. They comprise one of Berlin's earliest and most convincing expositions of his views on human freedom and on the history of ideas--views that later found expression in such famous works as "Two Concepts of Liberty," and were at the heart of his lifelong work on the Enlightenment and its critics. Working with BBC (...) transcripts and Berlin's annotated drafts, Henry Hardy has recreated these lectures, which consolidated the forty-three-year-old Berlin's growing reputation as a man who could speak about intellectual matters in an accessible and involving way. In his lucid examination of sometimes complex ideas, Berlin demonstrates that a balanced understanding and a resilient defense of human liberty depend on learning both from the errors of freedom's alleged defenders and from the dark insights of its avowed antagonists. This book throws light on the early development of Berlin's most influential ideas and supplements his already published writings with fuller treatments of Helve;tius, Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel, and Saint-Simon, with the ultra-conservative Maistre bringing up the rear. These thinkers gave to freedom a new dimension of power--power that, Berlin argues, has historically brought about less, not more, individual liberty. These lectures show Berlin at his liveliest and most torrentially spontaneous, testifying to his talents as a teacher of rare brilliance and impact. Listeners tuned in expectantly each week to the hour-long broadcasts and found themselves mesmerized by Berlin's astonishingly fluent extempore style. One listener, a leading historian of ideas who was then a schoolboy, was to recount that the lectures "excited me so much that I sat, for every talk, on the floor beside the wireless, taking notes." This excitement is at last recreated here for all to share. (shrink)