Sir Isaiah Berlin OM CBE FBA (1909–1997) was a Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. Although averse to writing, his improvised lectures and talks were recorded and transcribed, with his spoken word being converted by his secretaries into his published essays and books.
Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909, he moved to Petrograd, Russia, at the age of six, where he witnessed the revolutions of 1917. In 1921 his family moved to the UK, and he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1932, at the age of 23, Berlin was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He translated works by Ivan Turgenev from Russian into English and, during the war, worked for the British Diplomatic Service. From 1957 to 1967 he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he played a role in founding Wolfson College, Oxford, and became its first President. Berlin was appointed a CBE in 1946, knighted in 1957, and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom, and on November 25th, 1994, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Toronto, for which occasion he prepared a "short credo" (as he called it in a letter to a friend) known as "A Message to the 21st Century", to be read on his behalf at the ceremony.
An annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture is held at the Hampstead Synagogue, at Wolfson College, Oxford, at the British Academy, and in Riga. Berlin's work on liberal theory and on value pluralism, as well as his opposition to Marxism and communism, has had a lasting influence. In its obituary of the scholar, The Independent stated that:
Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time ... there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential
Sir Isaiah Berlin
|Born||6 June 1909|
|Died||5 November 1997 (aged 88)|
|Alma mater||Corpus Christi College, Oxford|
|School||Analytic · Social liberalism|
|Political philosophy · Philosophy of history · History of ideas · Ethics · Marxism · Modern history · Russian history · Russian literature · Romanticism|
|Negative/positive liberty distinction · Counter-Enlightenment · Value pluralism|
Born 6 June 1909, Berlin was the only surviving child of a wealthy Jewish family, the son of Mendel Berlin, a timber trader and philanthropist (and a direct descendant of Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Hasidism), and his wife Marie, née Volshonok. His family owned a timber company, one of the largest in the Baltics, as well as forests in Russia, from where the timber was floated down the Daugava river to its sawmills in Riga. As his father, who was the head of the Riga Association of Timber Merchants, worked for the company in its dealings with Western companies, he was fluent not only in Russian and German, but also French and English. His Russian-speaking mother, Marie Volshonok, was also fluent in Latvian. Isaiah Berlin spent his first six years in Riga, and later lived in Andreapol (a small timber town near Pskov, effectively owned by the family business) and Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). In Petrograd, the family lived first on Vasilyevsky Island and then on Angliyskaya Embankment on the River Neva. On Angliyskaya Embankment, they shared their building with the other tenants being Rimsky-Korsakov's daughter, as well as an assistant Minister of Finnish affairs, and Princess Emeretinsky - and, with the onset of the October Revolution of 1917, the fortunes of the building's tenants were rapidly reversed, with both the Princess Emeretinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov's daughter soon being made to stoke the building's stoves and sweep the yards. Berlin witnessed the February and October Revolutions both from his apartment windows, and from walks in the city with his governess where he recalled the crowds of protesters marching on the Winter Palace Square.
One particular childhood memory of the February Revolution, marked his life-long opposition to violence, with Berlin saying:
Well I was seven and a half and something, and then I was – did I tell you the terrible sight of the policeman being dragged – not policeman, a sharp shooter from the rooftop – being dragged away by a lynching bee ... In the early parts of the revolution, the only people who remained loyal to the Tsar was the police, the Pharaon, I've never seen [the term] Pharaon in the histories of the Russian Revolution. They existed, and they did sniping from the rooftops or attics. I saw a man like that, a Pharaon.... That's not in the books, but it is true. And they sniped at the revolutionaries from roofs or attics and things. And this man was dragged down, obviously, by a crowd, and was being obviously taken to a not very agreeable fate, and I saw this man struggling in the middle of a crowd of about twenty ... [T]hat gave me a permanent horror of violence which has remained with me for the rest of my life.
Feeling increasingly oppressed by life under Bolshevik rule where the family was identified as bourgeoisie, the family left Petrograd, on 5 October 1920, for Riga, but encounters with anti-Semitism and difficulties with the Latvian authorities convinced them to leave, and they moved to Britain in early 1921 (Mendel in January, Isaiah and Marie at the beginning of February), when Berlin was eleven. In London, the family first stayed in Surbiton where he was sent to Arundel House for preparatory school, then within the year they bought a house in Kensington, and six years later in Hampstead.
Berlin's native language was Russian, and his English was virtually nonexistent at first, but he reached proficiency in English within a year at around the age of 12. In addition to Russian and English, Berlin was fluent in French, German and Italian, and knew Hebrew, Latin, and Ancient Greek. Despite his fluency in English, however, in later life Berlin's Oxford English accent would sound increasingly Russian in its vowel sounds. Whenever he was described as an English philosopher, Berlin always insisted that he was not an English philosopher, but would forever be a Russian Jew: "I am a Russian Jew from Riga, and all my years in England cannot change this. I love England, I have been well treated here, and I cherish many things about English life, but I am a Russian Jew; that is how I was born and that is who I will be to the end of my life."
After being educated at St Paul's School (London), Berlin applied to Balliol College, Oxford, but was denied admission after a chaotic interview. Berlin decided to apply again, only to a different College: Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Berlin was admitted and commenced his Classics (Greats) degree. He graduated in 1928, taking a First in his final examinations and winning The John Locke Prize for his performance in the philosophy papers, in which he outscored A. J. Ayer. He subsequently took another degree at Oxford in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), winning another First after less than a year on the course. He was appointed a tutor in philosophy at New College, Oxford, and soon afterwards was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, the first unconverted Jew to achieve this fellowship at All Souls.
While still a student, he befriended Ayer (with whom he was to share a lifelong amicable rivalry), Stuart Hampshire, Richard Wollheim, Maurice Bowra, Stephen Spender, Inez Pearn, J. L. Austin and Nicolas Nabokov. In 1940, he presented a philosophical paper on other minds to a meeting attended by Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge University. Wittgenstein rejected the argument of his paper in discussion but praised Berlin for his intellectual honesty and integrity. Berlin was to remain at Oxford for the rest of his life, apart from a period working for British Information Services in New York from 1940 to 1942, and for the British embassies in Washington, DC, and Moscow from then until 1946. Prior to this service, however, Berlin was barred from participation in the British war effort as a result of his being born in Latvia, and because his left arm had been damaged at birth. In April 1943 he wrote a confidential analysis of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the Foreign Office; he described Senator Arthur Capper from Kansas as a solid, stolid, 78-year-old reactionary from the corn belt, who is the very voice of Mid-Western "grass root" isolationism. For his services, he was appointed a CBE in the 1946 New Year Honours. Meetings with Anna Akhmatova in Leningrad in November 1945 and January 1946 had a powerful effect on both of them, and serious repercussions for Akhmatova (who immortalised the meetings in her poetry).
In 1956 Berlin married Aline Halban, née de Gunzbourg (1915–2014) who was the former wife of an Oxford colleague and a former winner of the ladies' golf championship of France. She was from an exiled half Russian-aristocratic and half ennobled-Jewish banking and petroleum family (her mother was Yvonne Deutsch de la Meurthe, granddaughter of Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe) based in Paris.
He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959. He was instrumental in the founding, in 1966, of a new graduate college at Oxford University: Wolfson College. The college was founded to be a centre of academic excellence which, unlike many other colleges at Oxford, would also be based on a strong egalitarian and democratic ethos. Berlin was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. As later revealed, when he was asked to evaluate the academic credentials of Isaac Deutscher, Isaiah Berlin argued against a promotion, because of the profoundly pro-communist militancy of the candidate.
Berlin died in Oxford on 5 November 1997, aged 88. He is buried there in Wolvercote Cemetery. On his death, the obituarist of The Independent wrote: "he was a man of formidable intellectual power with a rare gift for understanding a wide range of human motives, hopes and fears, and a prodigiously energetic capacity for enjoyment – of life, of people in all their variety, of their ideas and idiosyncrasies, of literature, of music, of art". The front page of The New York Times concluded: "His was an exuberant life crowded with joys – the joy of thought, the joy of music, the joy of good friends. ... The theme that runs throughout his work is his concern with liberty and the dignity of human beings .... Sir Isaiah radiated well-being."
Berlin did not enjoy writing, and his published work (including both his essays and books) was produced by means of conversational dictation to a tape-recorder, or through the transcription of his improvised lectures and talks from recorded tapes. The work of transcribing his spoken word often placed a strain on his secretaries. This method of dictation even extended to his letters, which were produced by speaking to a Grundig tape recorder, often while simultaneously in conversation with his friends, and then transcribed with difficulty by his secretary, who at times would inadvertently include his jokes and laughter into the transcribed text itself. The results are a darting and leaping style of thought, which literally reflected his own conversation, and the ornate grammar and punctuation which was contained in his everyday speech.
Berlin is popularly known for his essay "Two Concepts of Liberty", delivered in 1958 as his inaugural lecture as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. The essay, with its analytical approach to the definition of political concepts, reintroduced the methods of analytic philosophy to the study of political philosophy. Spurred by his background in philosophy of language, Berlin argued for a nuanced and subtle understanding of our political terminology, where what was superficially understood as a single concept could mask a plurality of different uses and therefore meanings. Berlin argued that these multiple and differing concepts, otherwise masked by rhetorical conflations, showed the plurality and incompatibility of human values, and the need for us to distinguish and trade off analytically between, rather than conflate, them if we are to avoid disguising underlying value-conflicts. The two concepts are 'negative freedom', or freedom from interference, which Berlin derived from the British tradition, and 'positive freedom', or freedom as self-mastery, which asks not what we are free from, but what we are free to do. Berlin points out that these two different conceptions of liberty can clash with each other.
Berlin's lectures on the Enlightenment and its critics (especially Giambattista Vico, Johann Gottfried Herder, Joseph de Maistre and Johann Georg Hamann, to whose views Berlin referred as the Counter-Enlightenment) contributed to his advocacy of an irreducibly pluralist ethical ontology. In Three Critics of the Enlightenment, Berlin argues that Hamann was one of the first thinkers to conceive of human cognition as language – the articulation and use of symbols. Berlin saw Hamann as having recognised as the rationalist's Cartesian fallacy the notion that there are "clear and distinct" ideas "which can be contemplated by a kind of inner eye", without the use of language – a recognition greatly sharpened in the 20th century by Wittgenstein's private language argument.
For Berlin, values are creations of mankind, rather than products of nature waiting to be discovered. He argued, on the basis of the epistemic and empathetic access we have to other cultures across history, that the nature of mankind is such that certain values – the importance of individual liberty, for instance – will hold true across cultures, and this is what he meant by objective pluralism. Berlin's argument was partly grounded in Wittgenstein's later theory of language, which argued that inter-translatability was supervenient on a similarity in forms of life, with the inverse implication that our epistemic access to other cultures entails an ontologically contiguous value-structure. With his account of value pluralism, he proposed the view that moral values may be equally, or rather incommensurably, valid and yet incompatible, and may, therefore, come into conflict with one another in a way that admits of no resolution without reference to particular contexts of a decision. When values clash, it may not be that one is more important than the other: keeping a promise may conflict with the pursuit of truth; liberty may clash with social justice. Moral conflicts are "an intrinsic, irremovable element in human life". "These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are." For Berlin, this clashing of incommensurate values within, no less than between, individuals, constitutes the tragedy of human life. Alan Brown suggests, however, that Berlin ignores the fact that values are commensurable in the extent to which they contribute to the human good.
"The Hedgehog and the Fox", a title referring to a fragment of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, was one of Berlin's most popular essays with the general public, reprinted in numerous editions. Of the classification that gives the essay its title, Berlin once said "I never meant it very seriously. I meant it as a kind of enjoyable intellectual game, but it was taken seriously."
Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include William Shakespeare).
Berlin's lecture "Historical Inevitability" (1954) focused on a controversy in the philosophy of history. Given the choice, whether one believes that "the lives of entire peoples and societies have been decisively influenced by exceptional individuals" or, conversely, that whatever happens occurs as a result of impersonal forces oblivious to human intentions, Berlin rejected both options and the choice itself as nonsensical. Berlin is also well known for his writings on Russian intellectual history, most of which are collected in Russian Thinkers (1978; 2nd ed. 2008) and edited, as most of Berlin's work, by Henry Hardy (in the case of this volume, jointly with Aileen Kelly). Berlin also contributed a number of essays on leading intellectuals and political figures of his time, including Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Chaim Weizmann. Eighteen of these character sketches were published together as "Personal Impressions" (1980; 2nd ed., with four additional essays, 1998; 3rd ed., with a further ten essays, 2014).
A number of commemorative events for Isaiah Berlin are held at Oxford University, as well as scholarships given out in his name, including the Wolfson Isaiah Berlin Clarendon Scholarship, The Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professorship, and the annual Isaiah Berlin Lectures. The Berlin Quadrangle of Wolfson College, Oxford, is named after him. The Isaiah Berlin Association of Latvia was founded in 2011 to promote the ideas and values of Sir Isaiah Berlin, in particular by organising an annual Isaiah Berlin day and lectures in his memory. At the British Academy, the Isaiah Berlin lecture series has been held since 2001. Many volumes from Berlin's personal library were donated to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva and form part of the Aranne Library collection. The Isaiah Berlin Room, on the third floor of the library, is a replica of his study at the University of Oxford. There is also the Isaiah Berlin Society which takes place at his alma mater of St Paul's School (London). The society invites world famous academics to share their research into the answers to life's great concerns and to respond to students' questions. In the last few years they have hosted: A.C. Grayling, Brad Hooker, Jonathan Dancy, John Cottingham, Tim Crane, Arif Ahmed, Hugh Mellor and David Papineau.
Apart from earlier editions of Karl Marx and The Hedgehog and the Fox, and Unfinished Dialogue, all books listed from 1978 onwards are edited (or, where stated, co-edited) by Henry Hardy, and all but Karl Marx are compilations or transcripts of lectures, essays, and letters. Details given are of first and latest UK editions, and current US editions. Most titles are also available as e-books. The 11 titles marked with a '+' are available in the US market in revised editions from Princeton University Press, with additional material by Berlin, and (except in the case of Karl Marx) new forewords by contemporary authors; the 5th edition of Karl Marx is also available in the UK.
According to Berlin, the most eloquent of all defenders of freedom and privacy [was] Benjamin Constant, who had not forgotten the Jacobin dictatorship
Berlin refers to Diderot and Lessing as 'two of my favorite thinkers in the eighteenth century.'
|Booknotes interview with Michael Ignatieff on Isaiah Berlin: A Life, 24 January 1999, C-SPAN|
G. D. H. Cole
| Chichele Professor of
Social and Political Theory
|New office|| President of Wolfson College, Oxford
Sir Henry Fisher
|Professional and academic associations|
H. D. Lewis
| President of the Aristotelian Society
W. H. Walsh
Sir Denys Page
| President of the British Academy
Sir Kenneth Dover
| Jerusalem Prize
The Counter-Enlightenment was a term that some 20th-century commentators have used to describe multiple strains of thought that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th-century Enlightenment.
Though the first known use of the term in English was in 1949 and there were several uses of it, including one by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Counter-Enlightenment is usually associated with Isaiah Berlin, who is often credited for re-inventing it. The starting point of discussion on this concept in English started with Isaiah Berlin's 1973 Essay, The Counter-Enlightenment. He published widely about the Enlightenment and its challengers and did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterized as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist, and organic, which he associated most closely with German Romanticism.Henry Hardy
Henry Robert Dugdale Hardy (born 15 March 1949) is a British author and editor.History of ideas
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history. Work in the history of ideas may involve interdisciplinary research in the history of philosophy, the history of science, or the history of literature. In Sweden, the history of ideas and science or Idé- och lärdomshistoria has been a distinct university subject since 6 November 1932, when Johan Nordström, a scholar of literature, was appointed professor of the new discipline in a ceremony at Uppsala University (coinciding with that commemorating the 300-year anniversary of the Battle of Lützen). Today, several universities across the world provide courses in this field, usually as part of a graduate programme.Home University Library of Modern Knowledge
The Home University Library of Modern Knowledge was a series of popular non-fiction books from the first half of the twentieth century that ran to over 200 volumes. The authors were eminent scholars in their fields and included Isaiah Berlin, Harold J. Laski, Hilaire Belloc, Bertrand Russell and John Masefield.Isaiah Berlin (rabbi)
Isaiah Berlin also known as Yeshaye Pick (c. October 1725 in Eisenstadt, Kingdom of Hungary – May 13, 1799 in Breslau), was a German Talmudist.Jewish Telegraphic Agency
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) is an international news agency and wire service serving Jewish community newspapers and media around the world, with about 70 syndication clients listed on its web site.John Gray (philosopher)
John Nicholas Gray (born 17 April 1948) is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired in 2008 as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer. He is an atheist.Gray has written several influential books, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which argues that free market globalization is an unstable Enlightenment project currently in the process of disintegration; Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2003), which attacks philosophical humanism, a worldview which Gray sees as originating in religions; and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), a critique of utopian thinking in the modern world.
Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray has written that "humans ... cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them."Joseph L. Pfeifer
Joseph Lawrence Pfeifer (February 6, 1892 – April 19, 1974) was a United States Representative from New York. Born in Brooklyn, he attended St. Nicholas Parochial School, St. Leonard's Academy, and St. Francis College in Brooklyn. He graduated from Long Island Medical College in 1914 and was licensed to practice the same year. He was a lecturer and author on surgical topics and during the First World War he served on the medical advisory board, instructing medical officers going overseas.
Pfeifer was elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-fourth and to the seven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1951).
A confidential 1943 analysis of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office stated that Pfeifer
Has a mixed record on foreign policy. He dissented on (1) lifting of arms embargo; (2) neutrality revision; (3) extension of conscription; (4) lifting of belligerent zones; but on other major issues of foreign policy, such as conscription, Lend-Lease (and the various appropriations for it) and the repeal of the ban on arming United States ships, he supported the Administration. Age 51. Internationalist.
Pfeifer was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1950 to the Eighty-second Congress and resumed the practice of medicine. He retired and resided in Brooklyn, where he died in 1974; interment was in St. John's Cemetery, Middle Village.Mark Lilla
Mark Lilla (born 1956) is an American political scientist, historian of ideas, journalist, and professor of humanities at Columbia University in New York City. A self-described liberal, he typically, though not always, presents views from that perspective.
A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and publications worldwide, he is best known for his books The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West, and The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction. After holding professorships at New York University and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, he joined Columbia University in 2007 as Professor of the Humanities. He lectures widely and has delivered the Weizmann Memorial Lecture in Israel, the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford University, and the MacMillan Lectures on Religion, Politics, and Society at Yale University.Moral universalism
Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor are they necessarily value monist; many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist, and some forms, such as that of Isaiah Berlin, may be value pluralist.In addition to the theories of moral realism, moral universalism includes other cognitivist moral theories, such as the subjectivist ideal observer theory and divine command theory, and also the non-cognitivist moral theory of universal prescriptivism.Negative liberty
Negative liberty is freedom from interference by other people. Negative liberty is primarily concerned with freedom from external restraint and contrasts with positive liberty (the possession of the power and resources to fulfil one's own potential). The distinction was introduced by Isaiah Berlin in his 1958 lecture "Two Concepts of Liberty".Pluralism (political philosophy)
Pluralism as a political philosophy is the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body, which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions, and lifestyles. While not all political pluralists advocate for a pluralist democracy, this is most common as democracy is often viewed as the most fair and effective way to moderate between the discrete values.As put by arch-pluralist Isaiah Berlin, "let us have the courage of our admitted ignorance, of our doubts and uncertainties. At least we can try to discover what others [...] require, by [...] making it possible for ourselves to know men as they truly are, by listening to them carefully and sympathetically, and understanding them and their lives and their needs... ." Pluralism thus tries to encourage members of society to accommodate their differences by avoiding extremism (adhering solely to one value, or at the very least refusing to recognize others as legitimate) and engaging in good faith dialogue. Pluralists also seek the construction or reform of social institutions in order to reflect and balance competing principles. One of the more famous arguments for institutional pluralism came from James Madison in The Federalist paper number 10. Madison feared that factionalism would lead to in-fighting in the new American republic and devotes this paper to questioning how best to avoid such an occurrence. He posits that to avoid factionalism, it is best to allow many competing factions (advocating different primary principles) to prevent any one from dominating the political system. This relies, to a degree, on a series of disturbances changing the influences of groups so as to avoid institutional dominance and ensure competition. Like Edmund Burke, this view concerns itself with balance, and subordinating any single abstract principle to a plurality or realistic harmony of interests.
Pluralism recognizes that certain conditions may make good faith negotiation impossible, and therefore also focuses on what institutional structures can best modify or prevent such a situation. Pluralism advocates institutional design in keeping with a form of pragmatic realism here, with the preliminary adoption of suitable existing socio-historical structures where necessary.The Hedgehog and the Fox
The Hedgehog and the Fox is an essay by philosopher Isaiah Berlin—one of his most popular essays with the general public—which was published as a book in 1953. However, Berlin said, "I never meant it very seriously. I meant it as a kind of enjoyable intellectual game, but it was taken seriously. Every classification throws light on something".Three Critics of the Enlightenment
Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder is a collection of essays in the history of philosophy by 20th century philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin. Edited by Henry Hardy and released posthumously in 2000, the collection comprises the previously published works Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (1976) – an essay on Counter-Enlightenment thinkers Giambattista Vico and Johann Gottfried Herder – and The Magus of the North: J. G. Hamann and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism (1993), concerning irrationalist Johann Georg Hamann.Two Concepts of Liberty
"Two Concepts of Liberty" was the inaugural lecture delivered by the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin before the University of Oxford on 31 October 1958. It was subsequently published as a 57-page pamphlet by Oxford at the Clarendon Press. It also appears in the collection of Berlin's papers entitled Four Essays on Liberty (1969) and was more recently reissued in a collection entitled simply Liberty (2002).
The essay, with its analytical approach to the definition of political concepts, re-introduced the study of political philosophy to the methods of analytic philosophy. It is also one of Berlin's first expressions of his ethical ontology of value-pluralism. Berlin defined negative liberty (as the term "liberty" was used by Thomas Hobbes ) as the absence of coercion or interference with agents' possible private actions, by an exterior social-body. He also defined it as a comparatively recent political ideal, which re-emerged in the late 17th century, after its slow and inarticulate birth in the Ancient doctrines of Antiphon the Sophist, the Cyrenaic discipleship, and of Otanes after the death of pseudo-Smerdis. In an introduction to the essay, Berlin writes:
"As for Otanes, he wished neither to rule nor to be ruled—the exact opposite of Aristotle's notion of true civic liberty. ... [This ideal] remains isolated and, until Epicurus, undeveloped ... the notion had not explicitly emerged".Value pluralism
In ethics, value pluralism (also known as ethical pluralism or moral pluralism) is the idea that there are several values which may be equally correct and fundamental, and yet in conflict with each other. In addition, value-pluralism postulates that in many cases, such incompatible values may be incommensurable, in the sense that there is no objective ordering of them in terms of importance. Value pluralism is opposed to value monism.
Value-pluralism is a theory in metaethics, rather than a theory of normative ethics, or a set of values in itself. Oxford philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin is credited with being the first to popularize a substantial work describing the theory of objective value-pluralism, bringing it to the attention of academia (cf. the Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library). The related idea that fundamental values can and, in some cases, do conflict with each other is prominent in the thought of Max Weber, captured in his notion of "polytheism".Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Located in north Oxford along the River Cherwell, Wolfson is an all-graduate college with over sixty governing body fellows, in addition to both research and junior research fellows. It caters to a wide range of subjects, from the humanities to the social and natural sciences. Like the majority of Oxford's newer colleges, it has been coeducational since its foundation in 1965.The liberal philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin was the college's first president, and was instrumental not only in its founding, but establishing its tradition of academic excellence and egalitarianism. The college houses The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust and the annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture. The current president of the college is Tim Hitchens.As of 2006, the college had a financial endowment of £33.5 million.