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Description - Freedom and Its Betrayal by Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin's celebrated radio lectures on six formative anti-liberal thinkers were delivered on the BBC's Third Programme in 1952. They are published here for the first time, fifty years on. Freedom and its Betrayal is one of Isaiah Berlin's earliest and most convincing expositions of his views on human freedom and the history of ideas, views which later found expression in such famous works as 'Two Concepts of Liberty', and were at the heart of his lifelong work on the Enlightenment and its critics. In his lucid examinations of sometimes difficult ideas Berlin demonstrates that a balanced understanding and a resilient defence of human liberty depend on learning both from the errors of freedom's alleged defenders and from the dark insights of its avowed antagonists. This book throws light on the early development of Berlin's ideas, and supplements his already published writings with fuller treatments of Helvetius, Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel and Saint-Simon, with the ultra-conservative traditionalist Maistre bringing up the rear. Freedom and its Betrayal shows Berlin at his liveliest and most torrentially spontaneous, testifying to his talents as a teacher of rare brilliance and impact. Listeners tuned in expectantly each week to the broadcasts and found themselves mesmerised by Berlin's astonishingly fluent extempore style. A leading historian of ideas, who was then a schoolboy, records that the lectures 'excited me so much that I sat, for every talk, on the floor beside the wireless, taking notes'. This excitement is at last recreated here for all to share.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712668422
ISBN-10: 071266842X
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 153mm x 14mm)
Pages: 208
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Feb-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Freedom and Its Betrayal by Isaiah Berlin

UK Kirkus Review » This is a collection of six lectures originally given by Isaiah Berlin on BBC Radio in 1952, transcriptions edited by Henry Hardy. The lectures give quick brush-paintings of the philosophies of six major thinkers - Helvetius, Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel, Saint-Simon and Maistre - and their attempts to construct a moral and political science; or, as Berlin puts it, to answer the question: 'Why should anyone obey anyone else?' They were the first ever to be broadcast without the aid of a prepared script, and caused something of a sensation when they were aired; Berlin's torrential style and extempore illustrations caught the imagination of his listeners to such an extent that The Times headed their leader column with a comment on the series. Isaiah Berlin famously spoke with a rapidity and intensity that was at once captivating and extremely hard to understand. Hardy as a result is faced with a Herculean editorial task - and a task in which he acquits himself superbly, bringing to life not only the sense of Berlin's lectures, but something of the style in which he delivered them. The resulting transcript shows Berlin to be possessed of an extraordinary gift for explaining complex ideas in clear and simple language, without appearing to dumb down, back off or gloss needlessly. He speaks swiftly, succinctly and conversationally - he can almost be heard, so natural is the flow of the editing - completely enunciating in a few pages ideas which took their originators whole books to expound. Each lecture reads independently as an incisive encapsulation of the thought of a major figure in Western philosophy, capped by a brief section showing why that thought is antithetic to human liberty. Berlin creates in flowing language a historical reader and, ultimately, a warning. Masterful. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, now capital of Latvia, in 1909. When he was six, his family moved to Russia, and in Petrograd in 1917 Berlin witnessed both Revolutions - Social Democratic and Bolshevik. In 1921 he and his parents emigrated to England, where he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Apart from his war service in New York, Washington, Moscow and Leningrad, he remained at Oxford thereafter - as a Fellow of All Souls, then of New College, as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and as founding President of Wolfson College. He also held the Presidency of the British Academy. His published work includes Karl Marx, Russian Thinkers, Concepts and Categories, Against the Current, Personal Impressions, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas, Three Critics of the Enlightenment, Freedom and Its Betrayal, Liberty, The Soviet Mind and Political Ideas in the Romantic Age. As an exponent of the history of ideas he was awarded the Erasmus, Lippincott and Agnelli Prizes; he also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defence of civil liberties. He died in 1997.

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