By Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin. opposed to the present: Essays within the heritage of rules. Viking Press, 1980. 448. ISBN: 0-670-10944-4 pages
In this remarkable choice 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 principles nonetheless problem traditional wisdom--among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen, and Sorel. together with his strange powers of inventive 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 principles, [Berlin] has no equivalent; and what he has to assert is expressed in prose of remarkable lucidity and charm. (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 such a lot notable highbrow success. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly light up one of 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
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. He loathed system and condemned it in others.
Here Berlin discusses the typical forms it takes and some of its major sources, and touches upon one of the most puzzling features of nineteenth-century political thought and prophecy, namely its failure to give a true estimate of the decisive role nationalism was to play in shaping the modern world. As a coherent doctrine nationalism seems to emerge for the first time in the last third of the eighteenth century in the writings of Herder. For Herder and those German thinkers influenced by him, the arch-enemy was French universalism and materialism.
Indeed, one of the greatest of modern evils arises when men and their spiritual and material needs are treated as objects exhaustively analysable by science. Then men are reduced by scientific experts and rational bureaucrats to functioning parts in a machine, robbed of their true human essence as free creative agents. SorePs view of the nature of science, and of its misapplication to the lives of human beings, is strongly reminiscent of the darker apprehensions of Hamann, though unlike the German antinomian he regards science as a triumph of human intellect and effort and as an indispensable machine in the battle to resist blind nature.