By Isaiah Berlin
During this awesome choice of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20 th century, discusses the significance of dissenters within the historical past of ideas--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. along with his strange powers of inventive new version, 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 version, which additionally incorporates a new appendix of letters within which Berlin discusses and extra illuminates a few of its themes, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's selection to renounce a philosophy fellowship and develop into a historian of principles represented no longer an abandonment of philosophy yet a choice to do philosophy through different, might be greater, capability. "His intuition instructed him," Lilla writes, "that you examine extra approximately an idea as an concept in case you comprehend anything approximately its genesis and comprehend why yes humans discovered it compelling and have been spurred to motion via it." This number of interesting highbrow images 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’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.
For Hamann and Herder, and the many later thinkers directly or indirectly influenced by their radical innovations, the insidious enemies were the more fanatical and dogmatic philosophes of the French Enlightenment, whose central doctrines were held to be devitalising distortions of the truth, masking more than they illuminated. 1 What 1 [This Berlinian phrase appears to originate in an anonymous, somewhat free, trans lation of Holbach’s ‘recourons à nos sens, que l’on nous a faussement fait regarder comme suspects’, Système de la nature (1770), part 1, chapter 1, as ‘let us fall back on our senses, which error, interested error, has taught us to suspect’: Nature; and Her Laws: As Applicable to the Happiness of Man, Living in Society: Contrasted with Superstition and Imaginary Systems (London, 1816), i 26.
1 What 1 [This Berlinian phrase appears to originate in an anonymous, somewhat free, trans lation of Holbach’s ‘recourons à nos sens, que l’on nous a faussement fait regarder comme suspects’, Système de la nature (1770), part 1, chapter 1, as ‘let us fall back on our senses, which error, interested error, has taught us to suspect’: Nature; and Her Laws: As Applicable to the Happiness of Man, Living in Society: Contrasted with Superstition and Imaginary Systems (London, 1816), i 26. The phrase is copied in translations by Samuel Wilkinson (1820) and H.