By Isaiah Berlin
During this notable choice of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20 th century, discusses the significance of dissenters within the heritage of ideas--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. along with his strange powers of creative new version, Berlin brings to existence unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times--and nonetheless problem traditional wisdom.
In a brand new foreword to this corrected version, which additionally encompasses a new appendix of letters within which Berlin discusses and extra illuminates a few of its subject matters, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's selection to renounce a philosophy fellowship and turn into a historian of principles represented now not an abandonment of philosophy yet a choice to do philosophy by means of different, possibly greater, skill. "His intuition informed him," Lilla writes, "that you research extra approximately an concept as an concept if you recognize whatever approximately its genesis and comprehend why yes humans came across it compelling and have been spurred to motion by way of it." This number of interesting highbrow pix is a wealthy demonstration of that trust.
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Extra info for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (2nd Edition)
Berlin thus puts his finger on an irreconcilable tension in Montesquieu’s thought between the belief that to each society belong its own peculiar customs, moral outlooks, modes of life on the one hand, and the belief in justice as a universal, eternal standard and the passion for legality on the other. Berlin offers a convincing explanation by suggesting that both attitudes spring from an intense fear of despotism and arbitrariness. At all events, the contradiction remains unresolved, and Montesquieu’s thought represents for Berlin a sharp divergence from the ideals at the core of the Enlightenment, though not a dramatic break with them.
Indeed, it is tempting to see an analogy between Berlin’s reaction to the philosophy of Hume, Russell, Ayer, the early Wittgenstein, Carnap, the Vienna Circle and the main strains of neo-positivism, with their reductionist methods of ironing and flattening out, and the rejection by philosophers like Vico All three essays are reprinted in CC. 1 xl • Roger Hausheer of Descartes and the rationalists of his time, or the attitude of visionaries and thinkers like Hamann and Herder to the doctrines of the French Enlightenment.
Erreurs utiles’ (‘useful errors’), ibid. part 2, chapter 12, and ‘hommes fortement intéressés à l’erreur’ (‘people with a strong interest in error’), Le Bon Sens, § 82. ] xlviii • Roger Hausheer all these rationalist thinkers shared was the belief that somewhere, by some means, a single, coherent, unified structure of knowledge concerning questions of both fact and value was in principle available. e. logically or causally –interconnected, vast structures in which there should be no gaps left open for spontaneous, unattended developments, where everything that occurs should be, at least in principle, wholly explicable in terms of immutable general laws.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (2nd Edition) by Isaiah Berlin