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(03/15/2008) The Crooked Timber Of Humanity by Isaiah Berlin. New York. 1991. Knopf. Edited by Henry Hardy. keywords: Philosophy History. 281 pages. Jacket design by Julie Duquet. 0679401318. March 1991.

No one writes about the history of ideas like Isaiah Berlin. His prose is clear and his essays invite the reader to further explore his subjects .

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Isaiah Berlin is renowned the world over for his analysis of the ideas that have influenced or transformed societies. Deeply committed to individual and collective liberty, and to moral and political pluralism, he has devoted the half-century and more of his professional life as a teacher and lecturer to exploring the conditions that allow these ideals to flourish, and those that threaten them. Now this new collection brings together the latest in a series of brilliant essays that address some of the urgent social and political questions facing our changing world. With matchless authority, Berlin writes on such immense issues as nationalism, European unity, fascism, relativism, and cultural history. The range of essays collected here is wide, though they are all concerned with varieties of antirationalism. Five of these essays have never been published in a book, including the longest, an extensive study of the late-eighteenth-century thinker Joseph de Maistre and his connection to the origins of fascism. The essays are bound together by a firm rejection of tidy answers to the great social and political problems: as Kant once wrote, 'Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.'

SIR ISAIAH BERLIN was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909. In 1915, his family moved to Petrograd, where in 1917 he witnessed both the February and October revolutions. He came to England in 1919 and was educated at St. Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. At Oxford, he has been and is a Fellow of All Souls College and was a Fellow of New College, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and first president of Wolfson College He was president of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. In 1941, during World War II, he was sent to New York by the British Ministry of Information; in 1942 he was transferred to the Foreign Office, which he served in the British embassies in Washington and Moscow. Berlin's achievement as a historian and exponent of ideas has earned him the Erasmus, Lippincott, and Agnelli prizes. He has also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defense of civil liberties. His address on receiving the Agnelli Prize is the opening chapter of this book.

HENRY HARDY, editor of this book, also compiled and edited Isaiah Berlin's SELECTED WRITINGS. He took his B. Phil. and D. Phil. in philosophy at Oxford, and from 1985-1990 was senior editor of political and social studies at Oxford University Press. He is now a research fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

 

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