Concepts And Categories Philosophical Essays

Concepts And Categories Philosophical Essays-21
Berlin came to prominence at a time when the world was divided by political ideology, and his most important work was in political thought.Perhaps his greatest achievement of all was to turn the attention of post-war philosophy, which was largely pre-occupied with esoteric problems of linguistics and logic, to the consideration of the political issues of the age.In later life, Berlin regretted that they had been somewhat inward-looking; once they had convinced each other of a proposition, they moved on, seeing no need to publish their results.

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His father, Mendel Berlin, was a Jewish timber merchant who supplied sleepers to the Russian railways.

In 1915 the family left Riga for Andreapol, and two years later moved to Petrograd, where young Isaiah witnessed both the Liberal and Bolshevik Revolutions of 1917.

Berlin's first book, published in 1939, was a study of Karl Marx.

He was commissioned to write the book by H A L Fisher, but only (so Berlin claimed) after it had been offered to Harold Laski, Frank Pakenham and Richard Crossman.

Berlin saw the totalitarian advances of the previous decades in the East, and their intellectual apologists in the West, as an enormous threat to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of liberty and freedom.

His passionate defence of J S Mill's view of liberty, and his attack on the Hegelian conception of it, in Four Essays on Liberty, became the starting point for any modern discussion on freedom, and also helped to revive a subject that had fallen into the doldrums.

His political views were not, he recalled, pronounced, except for a general support for liberal ideas and progressive forces.

After taking Firsts in Greats and PPE, he moved from one Oxford college to another, briefly teaching philosophy at New College before obtaining, in 1932, a Prize Fellowship of All Souls, where he remained until returning to New College as a Fellow in 1938.

Baron Guy de Rothschild (a kinsman of Berlin's future wife Aline) encountered Berlin in New York.

"The most immediately striking thing about him was his unconventional appearance," de Rothschild remembered, "his peculiar air of seeming to float in his clothing." In Washington, where he lodged in Dick Heathcoat Amory's basement, Berlin dis covered - to his delight - that women found him attractive.


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