Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas by Isaiah Berlin

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

Book Description
In this extraordinary number of essays, Isaiah Berlin, one of many nice thinkers of the 20th century, discusses the significance within the background 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 edition, Berlin brings to existence unique minds that swam opposed to the present in their times.

Editorial Reviews
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 remarkable lucidity and charm. (Anthony Storr autonomous on Sunday )
Berlin expounds the tips of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous readability and inventive empathy.... exhilarating to learn. (Keith Thomas Observer )
A so much notable highbrow success. There are few books released in our time which extra dazzlingly remove darkness from one of the most the most important difficulties of western tradition and civilisation. (Goronwy Rees Encounter).

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Extra resources for Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas

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Yet his ideas are of value not only for their intrinsic power but because what was once confined to small groups of intellectuals has become a world-wide set of attitudes today. Sorel firmly rejected two of the central tenets of western social and political theory, namely the Greek doctrine of salvation by knowledge and the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of historical theodicy. In his view natural science is not an ontology, it cannot give us an account of the ultimate nature and structure of the world ; rather it is an instrument or a weapon developed by man in his constant struggle against hostile natural forces.

This type of 'direct' knowledge is neither inductive nor deductive nor hypothetico-deductive. It is sut generis and can be described and analysed only in terms of itself. It cannot be yielded by nor translated into a Cartesian or a Newtonian or any similar system which correlates things and events from 'outside' in terms of causal regularities. This we know from our own experience: a familiar activity or an intimate aspect of our lives, which we have hitherto seen from inside in terms of human goals and aspirations, can be alienated from us by being, as it were, 'objectified' : it is suddenly seen as alien and external to ourselves, a causal product of forces beyond our control — sociological, biological, physical.

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. Yet his ideas are of value not only for their intrinsic power but because what was once confined to small groups of intellectuals has become a world-wide set of attitudes today. Sorel firmly rejected two of the central tenets of western social and political theory, namely the Greek doctrine of salvation by knowledge and the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of historical theodicy.

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