IB at Headington House, 1971
Who was Isaiah Berlin?

Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was an Oxford philosopher and historian of ideas who made a key contribution to the development of political theory with his essay 'Two Concepts of Liberty' (1958). More famous still is his study on Tolstoy's view of history, The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953). Berlin was an original thinker whose writings on liberty and pluralism are a part of the intellectual bedrock of an open society. The best concise biography of him is Alan Ryan's article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Cover page of paperback From The Other Shore
What Matters? And Why?

To Isaiah Berlin, Alexander Herzen mattered. Berlin came upon Herzen's works by chance in the London Library, while he was researching his biography of another 19th century radical, Karl Marx. It was an accidental discovery that had a profound influence on Berlin's life and thought. The more that he read Herzen, the more that he admired him. He considered Herzen 'the most eloquent and convincing preacher' of what for Berlin was a central truth - that monist systems of thought were responsible for inhumanity and injustice on a colossal scale: 'political fanaticism of this type, no matter how pure the motive, how noble the goal, invariably leads to blood'. No century, he believed, illustrated this truth 'in a more dreadful fashion' than his own, and he recommended Herzen's humane and pluralist outlook as the antidote.

Isaiah Berlin, Alexander Herzen, and the Pursuit of the Ideal.

'Isaiah Berlin was one of the great affirmers of our time, a man to be admired not only for his intellectual achievements but for his loyalty, his humour, his modesty, his delight in the world and the people in it. He was neither a temporizer nor a meliorist, yet all his thought was directed toward a humane estimation of life and its possibilities.'

John Banville, New York Review of Books , 19 December 2013

'The fox knows many things...': Isaiah Berlin in quotes
Paraggi, 1972
The Enlighten-ment & its Critics
Russian Thinkers
Music and Opera
The Soviet Union
Israel & Zionism
Sakharov & Solzhenitsyn