By Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin. opposed to the present: Essays within the historical past of principles. Viking Press, 1980. 448. ISBN: 0-670-10944-4 pages
In this striking selection of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20th century, discusses the significance within the historical past of considered dissenters whose rules nonetheless problem traditional wisdom--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. along with his strange powers of innovative new edition, Berlin brings to existence unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times.
Isaiah Berlin was once the main esteemed highbrow determine within the English-speaking international. opposed to the present could be the such a lot consultant of [his] books. (Mark Feeney Boston Globe )
A historian of rules, [Berlin] has no equivalent; and what he has to assert is expressed in prose of remarkable lucidity and style. (Anthony Storr self sufficient on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the guidelines of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and ingenious empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A so much notable highbrow success. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly remove darkness from probably the most the most important difficulties of western tradition and civilisation. (Goronwy Rees Encounter).
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Extra resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
In this essay Berlin offers an exceptionally sensitive account of a man who, in the name of abstract theory and rationalistic schemes of amelioration, represses and denies his deepest feelings about himself and his identity — until, little by little, the truth becomes too strong for the artificial bonds restraining it, and bursts forth in all its vigour, with a powerful attendant sense of liberation. VIII T h e central themes of human dignity and identity, and of the search for a sense of being at home in a familiar world, recur in the highly suggestive essay on nationalism.
By grasping the innermost impulse at the heart of Disraeli's vision, the search for a persona, for an identity which would enable him to stand somewhere and be someone in the world, Berlin has offered a deeper, more coherent, and much more sympathetically convincing understanding of Disraeli than most of his biographers. By penetrating to the deepest root of a man's being, to his sense of self — of who he is, where he comes from, and where he belongs — Berlin has helped render intelligible a specific, particularly bizarre and puzzling case.
They are either a form of expression, of communication between immortal souls, or else they are the artificial, oppressive instruments of the classifying sciences. Sooner or later, too great an enthusiasm for systems of idealised figments at the expense of direct vision mediated by ordinary language will lead to the construction of great bureaucratic machines. Men will come to be treated as mechanical objects of administration, emptied of inner life and meaning, mere external husks and shells. In this, Hamann is one of the earliest and most clairvoyant of those who darkly foresaw what Max Weber later called 'das Gehäuse der Hörigkeit', 'the House of Bondage7, and what followers of the Frankfurt School today deplore as 'die verwaltete Welt' — the world, including men and nature, conceived of as a mechanical system to be manipulated for utilitarian ends by teams of rational experts.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin