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Isaiah Berlin: A Personal Impression

Henry Hardy

This is a slightly altered version of an obituary published in the Independent newspaper on 7 November 1997. The copyright is owned by its author.

Isaiah Berlin was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and one of the leading liberal thinkers of the century. Philosopher, political theorist, historian of ideas; Russian, Englishman, Jew; essayist, critic, teacher; he was a man of formidable intellectual power with a rare gift for understanding a wide range of human motives, hopes and fears, and a prodigiously energetic capacity for enjoyment of life, of people in all their variety, of their ideas and idiosyncrasies, of literature, of music, of art. 

Photograph 01: Isaiah Berlin by Clive Barda©
His defence and refinement of what he saw as the most essential conception of freedom achieved classic status, and the presence and character of this conception in the modern mind is due in no small measure to him. He also identified and developed, with considerable originality, a pluralist view of ultimate human ideals that supports his liberal stance, and deserves to become just as deeply embedded in our outlook. In contrast to the great majority of ideologies and creeds that humanity has created, he argued that not all values can be jointly realised in one life, or in a single society or period of history, and that many ideals cannot even be compared on a common scale; so that there can be no single objective ranking of ends, no uniquely right set of principles by which to live. 
© Copyright Henry Hardy 1997 N E X T > > 


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