Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, Roger Hausheer, Mark Lilla

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By Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, Roger Hausheer, Mark Lilla

In this awesome selection 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. together with his strange powers of inventive 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 variation, which additionally encompasses a new appendix of letters within which Berlin discusses and extra illuminates a few of its issues, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's determination to renounce a philosophy fellowship and turn into a historian of rules represented now not an abandonment of philosophy yet a call to do philosophy via different, might be higher, skill. "His intuition informed him," Lilla writes, "that you examine extra approximately an concept as an idea in case you comprehend anything approximately its genesis and comprehend why sure humans came across it compelling and have been spurred to motion via it." This number of attention-grabbing highbrow graphics is a wealthy demonstration of that belief.

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Extra resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas

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But in some degree it is surely true of most great writers and thinkers of richly suggestive vision, in so far as they have opened new and permanent doors of insight, perception and understanding. II At the heart of all Berlin’s writings there is a cluster of perennial philosophical problems. The nature of self, will, freedom, human identity, personality and dignity; the manner and degree in which these can be abused, offended against, insulted, and their proper boundaries (whatever these may be) transgressed; the consequences, both probable and actual, of failing to understand them for what they are, and above all of torturing them into conformity with conceptual systems and models which deny too much of their essential nature; the distinction between ‘inner’ human nature as opposed to ‘external’ physical nature, and between the basic categories and methods proper to their investigation –­all these problems are touched upon, and our understanding of them enlarged and deepened, by the essays in this volume.

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.

In the letter to Sidney Morgenbesser Berlin clarifies a point about free choice. I am grateful to Al Bertrand, Mark Lilla, Robert Silvers and Patrick Wise-Walsh for help in selecting these items. Since the new edition has been reset, the pagination differs from that of the first edition. This will cause some inconvenience to readers trying to follow up references to the first edition. html›, so that references to one can readily be converted into references to the other. I received very generous expert assistance from a number of people in editing this volume.

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