The Crooked Timber Of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas

The Crooked Timber of Humanity
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Scorrendo il lungo thread di commenti e recensioni, in tutte le lingue, mi sono reso conto di quanto variegato sia l'orizzonte umano nei suoi punti di vista. Basta rileggersi alcuni passi della letteratura sapienziale biblica, Siracide, Qoelet, Proverbi Badate bene, non intendo dire che la chiave della soluzione sia in quelle letture. Baku-X Jan 10, Not the easiest read but a great background on the history of philosophical thought in western Europe and the extremes to where it lead. I fast read through some parts but most was a review of a number of philosophers through history.

His prose is clear and his essays invite the reader to explore his subjects further. What more could you ask for? Although written separately, these essays exhibit a common concern with what Berlin calls pluralism, the idea that there can be different, equally valid but mutually incompatible, conceptions of how to live. Whatever their disagreements, traditional writers on politics have implicitly assumed that there is one best way to live, whether it was in the static utopias of More and Harrington or in the dynamic dramas of Hegel and Marx. But in the 18th century, Vico and Herder embraced pluralism, thus inaugurating the historicist turn in political thought.

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Berlin adeptly pursues pluralism and its repercussions through history, connecting it to the decline of utopian ideas, the origins of fascism and nationalism, the rise of the discipline of cultural history, and much else. As always, Berlin's prose is graceful and powerful, but what truly makes The Crooked Timber of Humanity exhilarating to read is the depth and power of his intellect. Berlin credits Vico with realizing that "to exercise their proper function, historians require the capacity for imaginative insight, without which the bones of the past remain dry and lifeless.

In the Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our present century: between the Platonic belief in absolute Truth and the lure of authoritarianism; between the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century fascism; between the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant--and sometimes genocidal--nationalism that convulses the modern world.

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Members Reviews Popularity Average rating Mentions 9 31, 4. Add to Your books. Add to wishlist. No current Talk conversations about this book. AntonioGallo Nov 2, According to Berlin, the Romantics have done well for humanity by dealing a "fatal blow" to the notion that. If this passage is purged of exaggeration and caricature - or even if one merely removes the words "perfect" and "golden age" - then the incoherence vanishes, or at least requires a good deal more demonstration than Berlin provides, either in this essay or despite his reputation as the theorist of political pluralism anywhere else.

Would any of those to whom the above beliefs are ascribed - that is, the "many who put their trust in rational and scientific methods designed to effect a fundamental social transformation" - acknowledge them in the form here proffered by Berlin? I doubt it. Again and again - almost without exception, in fact - Berlin trivializes and dismisses utopianism by means of such phrases as "earthly paradise," "the perfect life," "a perfect and harmonious society, wholly free from conflict or injustice or oppression," "a static perfection in which human nature is finally and fully realized, and all is still and immutable and eternal.

Any influential utopian writer? Most influential utopian writers? Even if the answer to that last question were "Yes" and if it is not, then Berlin's central claim about utopianism is untrue , the important issue raised by the utopian tradition would not be "Is humankind perfectible?

And why can't we even make a start?

The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas

Notwithstanding his famously varied interests and extraordinary range, Berlin has never found the occasion to raise, much less come to terms with, these urgent and obvious questions. He has instead devoted himself to addressing continual reminders about the unattainability of perfect harmony to a civilization that cannot rouse itself to legislate a decently progressive income tax or do more than gesture fitfully at homelessness, global hunger, and a score of other evils for which a doubtless imperfect posterity will doubtless curse and despise us.

Berlin will not, I'm afraid, win the Scialabba Prize. He will survive that disappointment; for all his frequent and graceful self-deprecation, he evidently enjoys, along with everyone else's, his own good opinion. Near the end of his splendid essay on Turgenev is a passage of what is unmistakably self-description:.

This is a perfectly honorable position, but it is not, as far as I can see, an agonizing one. It seems, in fact, quite a comfortable one. Turgenev, it is true, was not comfortable.

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But then, he tried long and hard to find common ground with the "indignant champions of the poor," rather than merely informing them that not much, alas, can be done. Berlin is, of course, in favor of whatever can be done; but what in particular that might be, and why not more, never seems to be his immediate concern. Forty years ago Irving Howe wrote: "But if the ideal of socialism is now to be seen as problematic, the problem of socialism remains an abiding ideal.

I would say that it is the best problem to which a political intellectual can attach himself. And Berlin still hasn't. Knopf, pp. Published in Dissent on 01 October, Printer friendly version Permalink. Nonetheless, it's hard to see what other sense to give comments like this: [For Hegel and Marx,] a large number of human beings must be sacrificed and annihilated if the ideal is to triumph.

The path may lead to a terrestrial paradise, but it is strewn with the corpses of the enemy, for whom no tear must be shed, since right and wrong, good and bad, success and failure, wisdom and folly, are all in the end determined by the objective ends of history, which has condemned half mankind - unhistorical nations, members of obsolete classes, inferior races - to what Proudhon called "liquidation" and Trotsky Or this: Marx - and it is part of his attraction to those of a similar emotional cast - identifies himself exultantly When history takes her revenge Whatever is on the side of victorious reason is just and wise; whatever is on the other side At one remove from Marx himself, "Marxist sociology" teaches: It is idle for the progressives to try to save their reactionary brothers from defeat: the doomed men cannot hear them, and their destruction is certain.

All men will not be saved: the proletariat, justly intent upon its own salvation, had best ignore the fate of their oppressors; even if they wish to return good for evil, they cannot save their enemies from "liquidation. Take this passage from "The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West": Broadly speaking, western Utopias tend to contain the same elements: a society lives in a state of pure harmony, in which all its members live in peace, love one another, are free from physical danger, from want of any kind, from insecurity, from degrading work, from envy, from insecurity, from degrading work, from envy, from frustration , experience no injustice or violence, live in perpetual, even light, in a temperate climate, in the midst of infinitely fruitful, generous nature.

The main characteristic of most, perhaps all, Utopias is the fact that they are static. Nothing in them alters, for they have reached perfection: there is no need for novelty or change; no one can wish to alter a condition in which all natural human wishes are fulfilled The Crooked Timber of Humanity , p. Similarly, in "The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will" Berlin declares that thinkers from Bacon to the present have been inspired by the certainty that there must exist a total solution: that in the fullness of time Crooked Timber of Humanity , p.

The Crooked Timber of Humanity : Chapters in the History of Ideas

According to Berlin, the Romantics have done well for humanity by dealing a "fatal blow" to the notion that rational organization can bring about the perfect union of such values and counter-values as individual liberty and social equality, spontaneous self-expression and organized, socially directed efficiency, perfect knowledge and perfect knowledge and perfect happiness, the claims of personal life and the claims of parties, classes, nations, the public interest. This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.

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View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title London. Review : The Crooked Timber of Humanity contains eight of Isaiah Berlin's deservedly influential essays in the history of ideas, all dealing with political thought in the 18th and 19th centuries. Buy New View Book.

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