Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas, Second by Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, Roger Hausheer, Mark Lilla

By Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, Roger Hausheer, Mark Lilla

In this extraordinary number 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 edition, 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 extra illuminates a few of its issues, famous essayist Mark Lilla argues that Berlin's selection to renounce a philosophy fellowship and develop into a historian of rules represented no longer an abandonment of philosophy yet a choice to do philosophy through different, possibly higher, capacity. "His intuition instructed him," Lilla writes, "that you examine extra approximately an concept as an idea if you comprehend anything approximately its genesis and comprehend why convinced humans chanced on it compelling and have been spurred to motion by means of it." This number of attention-grabbing highbrow photos is a wealthy demonstration of that belief.

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Additional resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas, Second Edition

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Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (1886), 2nd ed. (Calcutta, 1886), 43. 1 Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder, ed. Henry Hardy (Princeton, 2000), 350, 354, 355. 2 Johann Georg Hamann, Briefwechsel, ed. Walther Ziesemer and Arthur Henkel (Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, 1955–79) (hereafter B), i 379. 30; Immanuel Kant, Correspondence, trans. and ed. Arnulf Zweig (Cambridge, 1992), 52. AUTHOR’S NOTE I HAVE NOTHING OF MY own to add to the essays on the history of ideas contained in this book, but I should be exceedingly remiss if I did not take this opportunity of offering my thanks to Mr Roger Hausheer for providing so sympathetic and luminous an account of my views on the topics discussed in these essays.

Wright Mills3 I ISAIAH BERLIN’S ESSAYS in the history of ideas are not written from a point of view. They are not intended directly to illustrate or support (or for that matter attack or undermine) any single historical or political theory, doctrine or ideology; they range from such wholly diverse figures as Marx, Disraeli and Sorel to topics as apparently remote from one another as nationalism and the theory of knowledge; they are wholly exploratory and undogmatic, raising more tentative but often deeply unsettling questions than they claim to answer; and, above all, they represent an utterly independent, scrupulously open-minded, but deeply passionate search for truth.

Berlin did something similar in his essays. Though he wrote well-regarded profiles of exemplary figures like Machiavelli, Montesquieu and Marx, he was much more drawn to marginal thinkers he could make exemplary and use to highlight the questions that interested him. He had a weakness for underdogs, especially if he initially found their views uncongenial. It didn’t matter if the writing was obscure or the reasoning sometimes opaque. Berlin had learned that if you study them with philosophical intent, second-rate minds grappling with first-rate problems can teach you more than first-rate minds lost in the shrubbery.

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