- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (May 23, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019924989X
- ISBN-13: 978-0199249893
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Liberty: Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty 2nd Edition
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'For anyone wishing to have the essence of Berlin's thinking, Liberty is the volume to have.' John Banville, Irish Times
'Liberty not only offers a comprehensive overview of Isaiah Berlin's main topics and ideas, but also enables us to understand the development and relevance of those ideas in the context of his personality.' Steffen Gross, Dialektik
Reviews of Four Essays of Liberty
`Practically every paragraph introduces us to half a dozen new ideas and as many thinkers - the landscape flashes past, peopled with familiar and unfamiliar people, all arguing incessantly. It is all a very long way from the austere eloquence of Mill's marvellous essay On Liberty, with which this collection's title seems to challenge comparison; but it is a measure of the stature of these essays that they stand such a comparison.' Alan Ryan, New Society
`These famous essays ... are informed by that radical humanism, in the truest sense of that impoverished word, which has attached Sir Isaiah so closely to such nineteenth century figures as Herzen and Mill ...' Philip Toynbee, Observer
About the Author
Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls and New College, Professor of Social and Political Theory, and founding President of Wolfson College. He also held the Presidency of the British Academy. He died in 1997. Henry Hardy is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and is one of Isaiah Berlin's Literary Trustees. He has edited several other books by Berlin, and is currently preparing his letters and his remaining unpublished writings for publication.
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Historical Inevitability" portrays the anxiety, reinforced by the perceived accuracy of prediction of the sciences, to discover the "laws" of History, analogous to sciences' laws, which allow us to find causal and necessary explanations to the results of the human interaction of millions of individuals, which are thus reduced to mere instruments or puppets of huge, impersonal and irresistible forces. This anxiety's children, Relativism and Determinism, annihilate the person and have produced chaos, confusion and great violence.
"Two Concepts of Freedom", the most famous and controversial of his essays, analyzes the difference between negative freedom (freedom "from"), and positive freedom (freedom "to"). Negative freedom rests at the base of individual dignity, and of course it's not absolute. Building from a basic consensus (John Rawls's "overlapping consensus"?) about absolutely unacceptable behaviors in a society (at the same time limits and guarantees of one's own freedom), the individual must be free to do as he pleases, given that he assumes responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Positive freedom is a paradox, since it can be either a complement or a negation of the negative type. It is the freedom to intervene in other people's affairs. In its "benign" version (although Berlin never makes this division explicit), positive freedom can be used to gather wills in favor of the common good. But in its "pernicious" version, this freedom can be used to impose on others behaviors unwanted by them, that is, to impose unacceptable limits to their negative freedom. Which is where it always, almost inevitably, tends to go. Therefore, the fundamental political struggle must be the permanent defense of the negative freedoms. It's difficult to find a more lucid and clear presentation of liberty's dilemmas, as well as of a definition of personal dignity.
"John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life" presents MIll's thought, and above all the central epiphany that, very early on, defined his life: the discovery of emotions, that happiness can not be imposed and not even determined a priori; but that it is an uncertain and difficult task that, if ever, can only be reached, lost, and reappraised by each individual through his free and deliberate action, necessarily confusing, and only limited by other people's freedom. It is, thus, a passionate defense of diversity and the infinite possibilities of human life.
"Free of All Hope and Fear", examines the paradoxical (although not necessarily incompatible) relationship between knowledge and freedom. Am I freer every time I learn something new? Is more education conducive to more freedom? It's hard to affirm or deny it outright. That both knowledge and freedom are good, it seems certain. That all "good" things are always compatible, is not so clear.
"The Birth of Greek Individualism" is, particularly, an iconoclast and provoking essay. It refutes the ingrained idea that, after the battle of Cheronea, in 338 BC, and the dissolution of Athenian splendor, a moral and intellectual decadence prevailed. Maybe not. Maybe that disruption of the "organic community" was not a disaster, but a liberation. For several centuries, knowledge remained free from politics and pursued more fruitful paths, free from the burden of public affairs. The divorce between morals and politics; interior life as the authentic life; morals and happiness as attributes of the individual's, and not of the whole polis; gave way perhaps to a great breathing room, to peace and intellectual progress.
The volume closes with a "Final Retrospective" and three autobiographical texts which round up a magnificent edition of one of the richest, most original, freshest, and most provoking philosophical oeuvres of all time. A work that is more alive than ever, more needed, more authentic and contrary to the inanities of politicians, prophets, ideologues, and other sunder current and permanent charlatans. The product of a truly free mind, at the same time profound and swift, it is certainly one of the best products of philosophy of our time.
In "Liberty" he sets out to follow the concept of Liberty. In one of the most illuminating essays he sets out to answer the question: "What is Political Liberty" which then segues into the "The Birth of Greek Individualism." In "Two Concepts of Liberty" he takes western intellectuals to task for the results of the dangerous ideas that they heralded. He cites Henrich Heine who warned us that "philosophical concepts in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilization." In his essay "Historical Inevitably" he attacks the Marxist notion that there are inevitable stages of history, that one stage follows another as winter follows fall and he traces the path of thought in the past terrible epoch in "Political Ideas in the 20th Century." Each of the essays are thoughtful, trenchant and well argued. In a time when far too many intellectuals still adhere to ideas that were the foundation of terror, Isaiah Berlin's advocacy and exploration of human freedom should find a wide audience.
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He is a liberal in the old sense of the word (the 19th century...Read more
As I. Berlin states, `The periods and societies in which civil liberties were respected, and variety...Read more
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