By Isaiah Berlin
During this striking 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. together with his strange powers of innovative 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 incorporates a new appendix of letters within which Berlin discusses and additional illuminates a few of its issues, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's choice to renounce a philosophy fellowship and develop into a historian of rules represented now not an abandonment of philosophy yet a choice to do philosophy through different, possibly higher, capability. "His intuition advised him," Lilla writes, "that you study extra approximately an idea as an concept for those who comprehend whatever approximately its genesis and comprehend why sure humans came upon it compelling and have been spurred to motion by way of it." This selection of attention-grabbing highbrow photographs is a wealthy demonstration of that trust.
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Additional resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (2nd Edition)
It stresses the continuity of ideas and emotions, of thought and practice, of philosophy, politics, art and literature, rather than artificially prising them apart, as usually happens with the more specialised branches of the humane studies. The central objects of its enquiry are the all-pervading, ruling, formative concepts and categories peculiar to a culture or period –or indeed a literary school or a political movement, an artistic genius or a seminal thinker, in so far as these have been the first to raise issues and advance ideas which have passed into the common outlook of subsequent generations.
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.
Because it is the latter which is the source ‘of all the paralogisms and antinomies which are laid at the door of the former’,1 and when he declares that ‘by it [language] all things are made’,2 he foreshadows the doctrines of Austin and the later Wittgenstein. And when, speaking of artificial conceptual systems, he asserts that ‘our creatures are merciless mutilators of nature’, and goes on to ask, more in irony than in earnest, whether there exist ‘simple natural points to which everything can be reduced’, or whether ‘everything consists of mathematical lines’,3 he is raising objections that are uncannily similar to those levelled by ordinary-language philosophers today against the neopositivism of Russell and his followers.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (2nd Edition) by Isaiah Berlin