Political Science

Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin

By Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin. opposed to the present: Essays within the historical past of rules. Viking Press, 1980. 448. ISBN: 0-670-10944-4 pages

Book Description
In this remarkable choice of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20 th century, discusses the significance within the background of considered dissenters whose principles nonetheless problem traditional wisdom--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. along with his strange powers of innovative new edition, Berlin brings to lifestyles unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times.

Editorial Reviews
Isaiah Berlin used to be the main esteemed highbrow determine within the English-speaking global. opposed to the present could be the such a lot consultant of [his] books. (Mark Feeney Boston Globe )
A historian of principles, [Berlin] has no equivalent; and what he has to assert is expressed in prose of remarkable lucidity and style. (Anthony Storr self reliant on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the tips of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and innovative empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A so much extraordinary highbrow fulfillment. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly light up one of the most an important difficulties of western tradition and civilisation. (Goronwy Rees Encounter).

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Sample text

Xxxv AGAINST T H E C U R R E N T Looking about him in the modern world, Berlin perceives how vital these formative ideas are, and how their importance is likely to increase. They are all ideas which can engage the whole man, head and heart, and they are likely to have consequences commensurate with their appeal. T h e deep need for roots and self-expression felt by all men needs no stressing in an age of disruption and nationalism. T h e article on nationalism deals with some of these cardinal themes.

VII One of these three seminal ideas originated by Herder lies at the heart of Berlin's essays on Moses Hess and on Marx and Disraeli, and it illuminates the critical pages he has written on nationalism : the idea that one of the fundamental needs of men, as basic as those for food, shelter, procreation, security and communication, is to belong to identifiable communal groups, each possessing its own unique language, traditions, historical memories, style and outlook. Only if a man truly belongs to such a community, naturally and unselfconsciously, can he enter into the living stream and lead a full, creative, xxxvi INTRODUCTION spontaneous life, at home in the world and at one with himself and his fellow menj enjoying a recognised status within such a natural unit or group, which itself must command full unqualified recognition in the world at large 5 and thereby acquiring a vision of life, an image of himself and his condition in a community where concrete, immediate, spontaneous human relations may flower undistorted by neurotic self-questioning about one's true identity, and free from the crippling wounds inflicted by the real or imaginary superiority of others.

As a young man Hamann, a protégé of the leading figures of the Berlin Aufklärung, Mendelssohn and Nicolai, had been a successful publicist and apostle of enlightenment. But after undergoing a transforming inner experience, and returning to the pietist faith of his earlier years, he set out to attack the ideals and values at the core of the rationalist tradition, and transmuted them into something like their opposites. He represents the most uncompromising backlash of human dignity and the ideals of warmth, love and spontaneity against the spirit-crushing abstractions of the systematisers and 'terribles simplificateurs1 of eighteenth-century France.

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