By Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin. opposed to the present: Essays within the background of principles. Viking Press, 1980. 448. ISBN: 0-670-10944-4 pages
In this striking number 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 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 so much consultant of [his] books. (Mark Feeney Boston Globe )
A historian of rules, [Berlin] has no equivalent; and what he has to claim is expressed in prose of outstanding lucidity and beauty. (Anthony Storr self sufficient on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the tips of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and resourceful empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A such a lot extraordinary highbrow fulfillment. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly light up essentially 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
Berlin's thesis is that Marx, despite the depth and originality of his central ideas, failed to give a satisfactory account of nationalism, and systematically underestimated its importance as an independent force, not least because of his own not openly avowed, and probably not even wholly conscious, embarrassment at his own origins. He too, on this view, like Disraeli, sought to identify himself with a social group of which he was not by origin a member. He chose the universal class of exploited proletarians, who were wholly free of the stigma with which he was himself marked.
Yet this process is not random, or haphazard, or chaotic, nor is it xlix AGAINST T H E C U R R E N T devoid of rational significance. For in so far as it expresses the intelligible purposive response of sentient rational creatures in certain vital respects identical with ourselves, confronted by and devising solutions to the problems of their total environment, we can enter into and understand the process in that special sense which Vico was the first to grasp and articulate. Moreover, since our own image or conception of man and his nature is in large measure a historical product of this ceaseless exploration or search, of the slow and unpredictable growth of new^ more adequate, more sophisticated models of human nature, these essays, which excavate and examine some of the major epochmaking additions to our central concept of man, may be seen as significant and remarkably sensitive contributions to an experimental, open-ended, undogmatic phenomenology of modern western man.
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.
Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin