By Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy, John Banville
"Out of the crooked trees of humanity, no immediately factor used to be ever made."--Immanuel Kant
Isaiah Berlin used to be the most very important philosophers of the 20th century--an activist of the mind who marshaled huge erudition and eloquence in protection of the endangered values of person liberty and ethical and political plurality. In The Crooked trees of Humanity he exposes the hyperlinks among the tips of the previous and the social and political cataclysms of our personal time: among the Platonic trust in absolute fact and the trap of authoritarianism; among the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century Fascism; among the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant--and occasionally genocidal--nationalism that convulses the fashionable world.
This new version contains a revised textual content that supplants all earlier types, a brand new foreword during which award-winning novelist John Banville discusses Berlin's existence and ideas, really his safety of pluralism, and a considerable new appendix that offers wealthy context, together with letters through Berlin and formerly uncollected writings, so much significantly his virtuoso assessment of Bertrand Russell's A heritage of Western Philosophy.
Read or Download The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas, Second edition PDF
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Extra resources for The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas, Second edition
In the case of morals, we could then conceive what the perfect life must be, founded as it would be on a correct understanding of the rules that governed the universe. True, we might never get to this condition of perfect know ledge – we may be too feeble-witted, or too weak or corrupt or sinful, to achieve this. The obstacles, both intellectual and those of external nature, may be too many. Moreover, opinions, as I say, had widely differed about the right path to pursue – some found it in Churches, some in laboratories; some believed in intuition, others in experiment, or in mystical visions, or in mathematical calculation.
Let me continue with this argument. It is asserted that unless we can conceive of something perfect, we cannot understand what is meant by imperfection. If, let us say, we complain about our condition here on earth by pointing to conflict, misery, cruelty, vice – the misfortunes, follies, crimes of mankind – if, in short, we declare our state to be short of perfect, this is intelligible only by comparison with a more perfect world; it is by measuring the gap between the two that we can measure the extent by which our world falls short.
Whether any man knows or can, in fact, know it, is another question; but it must, at least in principle, be knowable, provided that the right procedure for establishing it is used. The third assumption, and perhaps the most important in this 26 • The Crooked Timber of Humanity context, is that all the correct answers must, at the very least, be compatible with one another. That follows from a simple, logical truth: that one truth cannot be incompatible with another truth; all correct answers embody or rest on truths; therefore none of the correct answers, whether they are answers to questions about what there is in the world, or what men should do, or what men should be – in other words, whether they answer questions concerned with facts or with values (and for thinkers who believe this third proposition, questions of value are in some sense questions of fact) – can ever be in conflict with one another.