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 impressive selection of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20 th 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 ingenious new version, 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 so much 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 outstanding lucidity and charm. (Anthony Storr autonomous on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the guidelines of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and creative empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A such a lot impressive highbrow fulfillment. 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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Additional resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
In waging this terrible battle he and his comrade-in-arms, Jacobi, pressed into service two of the central doctrines (one of them in a much modified form) ofthesober empiricist philosopher, David Hume. There can be few more paradoxical chapters in the history of modern European thought. T h e doctrine that the sole path to knowledge was afforded by the natural, empirical sciences ; that all statements with a claim to truth must be in principle publicly testable by any rational being ; that there were and could be no other sources of genuine knowledge, transcendent or non-rational — these principal tenets of the French Enlightenment encountered increasing opposition from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, even in France itself.
Who were they? Some among them — the more pliable and easy-going — shed their past with no apparent trouble and merged unobtrusively into their new environment ; others — those whose very sense of self, intimately bound up with their passionate desire to do and be something in the world, would not allow them to forget their origins could not perform this act of facile self-transformation. Troubled, and more often agonised and wounded, by not being automatically accepted as members of the worlds they sought to enter, they hit upon various more or less conscious solutions to their problems of selfidentity.
T h e fundamental issue of human dignity is further illuminated by the essay on Sorel. Despite the outwardly erratic course taken by his political allegiances, SorePs principal ideas and his central vision of human nature are vitally relevant today. Indeed, as Berlin presents him, he seems more modern and to speak to us more directly than a good many of his more celebrated, solid and sober contemporaries. He xliii AGAINST T H E C U R R E N T was not a systematic thinker, purveying a political doctrine whose out· lines were fixed and final.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin