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 amazing selection of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20th century, discusses the significance within the heritage of considered dissenters whose principles nonetheless problem traditional wisdom--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. along with his strange powers of ingenious new version, Berlin brings to existence unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times.
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 beauty. (Anthony Storr self sufficient on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the tips of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and ingenious empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A such a lot impressive highbrow success. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly remove darkness from the most the most important difficulties of western tradition and civilisation. (Goronwy Rees Encounter).
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Additional info for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
T h e faculty of faith is no more open to refutation by reason than is the evidence of the senses ; though it may on occasion deceive, it is not shored up by an elaborate apparatus of proof. Above all, the artificial utilitarian contraptions of scientists, which do not express the inner nature of men or of God, have nothing to say to it. No man can love, or see his innermost nature expressed in, the web of lifeless categories spun by the rationalist Spinoza or the de-spiritualised play of cause and effect of the vast materialist machines constructed by Holbach or Helvétius.
They are not, as Berlin says, real workers, miners and factory operatives, men of flesh and blood, owing allegiance to their nation and bound by a thousand ties of tradition and local loyalty ; rather they are made the vehicle for the wounded feelings of humanity in general, and at times of Marx himself. Hence the appeal so often made by Marx's words to others like himself, the rootless, alienated, cosmopolitan intellectuals, whose revulsion at the cruelty and injustice of their world goes hand in hand with a sense of wounded dignity and a desperate search for identity.
Like Sorel, he seems to speak directly to us about our own predicament ; and his complex sense of reality and of the critical moral and political issues of his time gives his utterances a concrete sharpness, freshness and durability which marks them off from those of the majority of professional social thinkers in the nineteenth century, who tended to offer general solutions derived by rational methods from highly abstract principles. Herzen's powers of observation, analysis and exposition remained unblunted by the yearning for cut and dried systems of exact classification.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin