By Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin. opposed to the present: Essays within the background of rules. Viking Press, 1980. 448. ISBN: 0-670-10944-4 pages
In this amazing 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. together with his strange powers of ingenious new edition, 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 so much 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 sustaining on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the information of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and innovative empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A so much outstanding highbrow success. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly light up essentially the most an important difficulties of western tradition and civilisation. (Goronwy Rees Encounter).
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Extra info for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
Poets, lovers and the devout alone are able to enter into and acquire full knowledge of the objects of their intense devotion. T h e data of immediate acquaintance are concrete and unique: any attempt to * reorganise' them into artificial patterns distorts them, and transforms them into something other and poorer than themselves. Indeed, there is an almost uncannily modern ring about Hamann's views on the relationship between thought, experience and language. ' because it is the latter which is the source Of all the paralogisms and antinomies which are laid at the door of the former', and when he declares that 'by it [language] all things are made', he foreshadows the xxxiv INTRODUCTION doctrines of Austin and the later Wittgenstein.
For Herder and those German thinkers influenced by him, the arch-enemy was French universalism and materialism. Berlin sees Herder's thought as representing on the one hand a comprehensive rejection of the doctrine that universal rational rules governing theory and practice could be discovered, and, on the other, a German reaction to the condescending, patronising attitude of the politically and culturally dominant French. This natural response of wounded pride is an early and typical case of a phenomenon which was to become increasingly common in the nineteenth century, growing into a xlii INTRODUCTION world-wide movement in our own day, with consequences the full scope and nature of which are still being painfully revealed.
In a universe which is not a rational cosmos but chaotic and open to unforeseeable change there could be no absolute values or universal ideals. T h e choice between values is an absolute choice. That is to say, there can be no empirical explanation of it of the kind offered by the generalising natural sciences in terms of inductive knowledge of the objective pattern of human needs and values ; nor is it susceptible of deductive justification in the light of some a priori^ intuitive or theological knowledge of the true nature of man and the ends of life ; for either of these would empty it of its inherent significance : it is simply a choice.