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Philosophical Essays. Selected writings

By (author) Isaiah Berlin
Volume editor Henry Hardy
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: The Hogarth Press Ltd
Published: 7th Sep 1978
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 400g
ISBN-10: 0701204400
ISBN-13: 9780701204402
Barcode No: 9780701204402

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Kirkus UK
Although known for his essays on the history of ideas after World War II, Berlin continued to practise a strain of pure philosophy throughout his life. Many of his greatest essays are here, including works on equality, logical positivism and political theory as well as one of the most illuminating of all from a biographical point of view, The Purpose of Philosophy, which gives us a key to understanding his life's work. In many ways this collection shows Berlin at his best: humane, sceptical, poised and erudite. (Kirkus UK)
Kirkus US
For those whose acquaintance with Oxford's Isaiah Berlin rests primarily on Russian Thinkers (1978), this, the second of four volumes of his essays, may be a surprise. Best known as a historian of ideas, Berlin began his career as a philosopher, and, as he himself notes in a preface, these philosophical essays bear the stamp of the debates within British philosophy current 30 years ago. In essays entitled "Verification" (1939), "Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements" (1950), and "Logical Translation" (1950), Berlin took his stand against empiricism, and particularly against the effort to render philosophical statements "scientific." These are heavy going, written in the curiously simple language of British philosophy - "what exists but is not here exists and is not here in exactly the same sense of 'exists' as what is - does exist - here" - with its talk of tables, chairs, and Napoleon's three-cornered hat. But even if these essays are relics, they are also documents in Berlin's intellectual development, and on a closer look they do connect with his more famous work. Other essays here provide a bridge, In "The Purpose of Philosophy" (1962), "The Concept of Scientific History" (1960), "Does Political Theory Still Exist?" (1961), and "'From Hope and Fear Set Free'" (1964) he stresses the importance of the historical element - manifested in language and invisible to empiricism - in the way people see themselves and the world. The task of the humanist intellect is not to make scientific statements, but to reveal the pluralism of world views while stripping away the accumulated veneers of myth and dogma. We therefore see Berlin, an essayist born, traveling from empiricism to Tolstoy. (Kirkus Reviews)