The essays collected in this new volume reveal Isaiah Berlin at
his most lucid and accessible. He was constitutionally incapable of
writing with the opacity of the specialist, but these shorter, more
introductory pieces provide the perfect starting-point for the
reader new to his work. Those who are already familiar with his
writing will also be grateful for this further addition to his
The connecting theme of these essays, as in the case of earlier
volumes, is the crucial social and political role--past, present
and future--of ideas, and of their progenitors. A rich variety of
subject-matters is represented--from philosophy to education, from
Russia to Israel, from Marxism to romanticism--so that the truth of
Heine's warning is exemplified on a broad front. It is a warning
that Berlin often referred to, and provides an answer to those who
ask, as from time to time they do, why intellectual history
Among the contributions are "My Intellectual Path," Berlin's
last essay, a retrospective autobiographical survey of his main
preoccupations; and "Jewish Slavery and Emancipation," the classic
statement of his Zionist views, long unavailable in print. His
other subjects include the Enlightenment, Giambattista Vico,
Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Herzen, G.V. Plekhanov, the Russian
intelligentsia, the idea of liberty, political realism,
nationalism, and historicism. The book exhibits the full range of
his enormously wide expertise and demonstrates the striking and
enormously engaging individuality, as well as the power, of his own
"Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the
French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical
concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could
destroy a civilization."--Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty,"
This new edition adds a number of previously uncollected pieces,
including Berlin's earliest statement of the pluralism of values
for which he is famous.
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