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Isaiah Berlin is regarded by many as one of the greatest historians of ideas of his time. In The Crooked Timber of Humanity, he argues passionately, eloquently, and subtly, that what he calls 'the Great Goods' of human aspiration - liberty, justice, equality - do not cohere and never can. Pluralism and variety of thought are not avoidable compromises, but the glory of civilisation. In an age of increasing ideological fundamentalism and intolerance we need to listen to Isaiah Berlin more carefully than ever before.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712606165
ISBN-10: 0712606165
Format: Paperback
(233mm x 154mm x 21mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Sep-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Taking his theme from Kant's famous observation, 'out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made', the late Sir Isaiah Berlin explores the waywardness and unmalleability of humankind to argue the case against trying to impose utopian political systems on society. He passionately restates the liberal argument for diversity and pluralism in human arrangements, even at the cost of a certain loss of productive efficiency or moral tidiness. The goals of human aspiration - liberty, justice and equality - are not, he says, simultaneously attainable, and compromise between them, only possible in tolerant societies, is therefore always necessary. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Isaiah Berlin

Sir Isaiah Berlin, O. M., was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909. He came to England in 1919 and was educated at St Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. At Oxford, he was a Fellow of New College (1938-50), Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory (1957-67), first President of Wolfson College (1966-75), a Fellow of All Souls College, and President of the British Academy from 1974-1978. His books include Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (1997), The Sense of Reality: Studies in Ideas and their History (1997), Personal Impressions (1998), The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays (1998), Concepts and Categories: Philosophical Essays (1999), The Roots of Romanticism (2000), Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder (2000), The Power of Ideas (2001), and Freedom and its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Liberty (2002), all published by Pimlico. His achievements as a historian and exponent of ideas earned him the Erasmus, Lippincott, and Agnelli Prizes, and his lifelong defence of civil liberties earned him the Jerusalem Prize. He died in 1997. Henry Hardy, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin's Literary Trustees. He has edited several other books by Berlin, and is currently preparing a selection of his letters for publication.

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