'People Are My Landscape'
It is difficult to categorize Isaiah Berlin’s many works since they straddled conventional subject boundaries, a function of his unconventional approach. It is impossible, for example, to separate the philosopher and political theorist from the historian of ideas. Nevertheless, one can helpfully identify four principal subject areas - philosophy, political theory, history of ideas, and Russian literature and thought...
Isaiah Berlin is perhaps best known as a philosopher, even though he devoted relatively little of his career to that discipline, leaving it for pastures new, in the shape of political theory and the history of ideas, after the Second World War. Berlin tended to dramatize his abandonment of philosophy, but there are grounds for scepticism on this point. As Alasdair MacIntyre observes in his foreword to the Princeton edition of Concepts and Categories, the anthology of Berlin’s philosophy writings: ‘Berlin may have thought of himself as having left philosophy behind, but philosophers of many points of view took no notice and continued to treat him as a major figure in their discipline.'
Two Concepts of Liberty.
Berlin's works in this field span several decades, and include Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (1939), The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953), and the essays collected by Henry Hardy in Against the Current (1979), The Crooked Timber of Humanity (1990) and Three Critics of the Enlightenment (2000). This section will examine these works, against the backround of contemporary and current debate.