By Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, Roger Hausheer, Mark Lilla
In this awesome choice of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20th 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 imaginitive new edition, Berlin brings to lifestyles unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times--and nonetheless problem traditional wisdom.
In a brand new foreword to this corrected variation, which additionally features a new appendix of letters during which Berlin discusses and extra illuminates a few of its themes, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's choice 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 through different, possibly larger, skill. "His intuition instructed him," Lilla writes, "that you study extra approximately an concept as an idea in case you comprehend anything approximately its genesis and comprehend why sure humans discovered it compelling and have been spurred to motion by means of it." This number of attention-grabbing highbrow photos is a wealthy demonstration of that belief.
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Extra info for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
For Berlin does not deal only with great thinkers: the history of ideas is not the story of a succession of great philosophers, where one system of ideas or theories begets another, as if by a process of parthenogenesis; rather, he is interested in the emergence of ideas, in many types of intellectual personality, varied, original, eccentric, often dissident and outside the mainstream of their time, in opposition to the orthodox dogmas and received presuppositions which they help to overturn. What the history of ideas is able to offer as a branch of phil osophy, and as a relatively new source of genuine knowledge and enlightenment, is insight into the origins of, and literally world-transforming shifts in, the basic conceptual patterns in terms of which we understand ourselves and acquire our identity as human beings.
Far from divorcing ethics from politics, as Croce and others have maintained, Machiavelli looks beyond the officially Christian ethics of his time (and, by implication, beyond other related moral outlooks, Stoic or Kantian or even utilitarian), which are essentially concerned with the individual, to a more ancient tradition, that of the Greek polis or of republican Rome –an essentially collective or communal morality Introduction • li according to which to be a human being and to have values and purposes is identical with being a member of a community.
Berlin’s keen sense of the irreducibly wide variety of kinds of experience and types of proposition, and of the impossibility of expressing them in or translating them out into one type of proposition, or of analysing all the contents of the universe in terms of one basic kind of entity or ‘stuff ’, is here given free expression in the spheres of logic and epistemology. Things are as they are, and we do well not to analyse away what makes them uniquely themselves. What makes these essays so particularly fascinating and important is twofold: they are written from within the ranks of the philosophical tendency which he criticises, and, in so far as they reveal certain very deep-rooted attitudes and convictions on his own part, they point towards, and help enlarge our understanding of, both his intense interest in the history of ideas and his conception of philosophy’s role.