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I was forever enlisted on the side of limited, constitutional government -- flawed as it was and despised at the time as "the system." Berlin's argument seems blindingly obvious now.
But the anti-"system" ravings of, say, the Unabomber, which seem grotesque today, were common fare on the campuses of 1969. In 1969, when history had not quite played itself out, Berlin's book was a tonic. It was brilliant in deconstructing the political romantics. Philosopher Leo Strauss, in his essay "Relativism" surgically exposed the central paradox of Berlin's position: that it made pluralism -- the denial of one supreme, absolute value -- the supreme, absolute value. Make your children read it before they go to college, the last redoubt of romantic neo-Marxism. The pluralism Berlin championed will be challenged again.
He has edited many books by Berlin, including those discussed in this interview.
The fourth and final volume of his edition of Berlin's letters, Affirming: Letters 1975-1997, co-edited with Mark Pottle, was published by Chatto & Windus in September 2015.
Against those who proclaimed they had found the one true path to political salvation, Berlin stood in the way, a champion of pluralism, the many-pathed way. In 1969, to be young was heaven -- and to be seized with intimations of heavenly omniscience.
Who Wrote The Book - Four Essays On Liberty
His most famous is "The Hedgehog and the Fox," a wonderfully imaginative division of the great thinkers of history into those who have one big idea (hedgehogs) and those who have many small ones (foxes). He believed that single issues, fixed ideas, single-minded ideologies are dangerous, the royal road to arrogance and inhumanity.These additions help us to grasp the nature of Berlin's "inner citadel," as he called itthe core of personal conviction from which some of his most influential writing sprung.Isaiah Berlin was a Fellow of All Souls and New College, Professor of Social and Political Theory, and founding President of Wolfson College.Access to society journal content varies across our titles.If you have access to a journal via a society or association membership, please browse to your society journal, select an article to view, and follow the instructions in this box.Not too many people can point to a specific day when they sat down with a book and got up cured of the stupidities of youth. And apart from Marxism and its variants, there was the lure of such philosophers as Rousseau, the great theorist of mass democracy and the supremacy of the "popular will." In the midst of all this craziness, along comes Berlin and says: Look, this is all very nice, but what the monists -- the believers in the one true truth, Marx and Rousseau and (by implication) such Third World deities as Mao and Ho and Castro -- are proclaiming is not freedom. Freedom is a sphere of autonomy, an inviolable political space that no authority may invade. The book was "Four Essays on Liberty." The author was Isaiah Berlin. Berlin was one of the great political philosophers of his time. "Four Essays on Liberty" is his great argument for pluralism. It was a time of grand theories and grand aspirations -- liberation, revolution, historical inevitability -- and we children were mightily seduced. There was, of course, Marxism; for the masochistic, there was Trotskyism; for the near-psychotic, there was Maoism.What they offer may be glorious and uplifting and just. In fact, said Berlin, these other "higher" pseudo-freedoms peddled by the monist prophets are very dangerous. And another thing, said Berlin: Historical inevitability is bunk, a kind of religion for atheists.They proclaim one true value above all else -- equality in Marx, fraternity in Rousseau -- and in the end the individual with his freedom is crushed underfoot. And one more thing, he said (in the fourth and final essay of the book): The true heart of the liberal political tradition is the belief that no one has the secret as to what is the ultimate end and goal of life.I arrived for the interview and was immediately very struck by the man who was in charge of the proceedings – Isaiah Berlin.I didn’t know about him before, but he was intensely alive and talked about ideas in a fascinating way. “He thought that his work was not particularly good, not particularly important, and I don’t think that was an affectation: he really did believe that.” You mention him talking – he’s renowned as a talker.