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

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Overview

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."—Immanuel Kant

Isaiah Berlin was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century—an activist of the intellect who marshaled vast erudition and eloquence in defense of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political pluralism. 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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Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
The perfect guide through the complex radical changes that have swept Western societies.... A brilliant, convincing work ... humane, compassionate, important.
Washington Post Book World
Overwhelming intelligence ... [Berlin's] mind is captivating.... His reflections ... strike at the heart of our most parroted beliefs.
The New York Times
A beautifully patterned tapestry of philosophical thought.... A history of ideas that possesses all the drama of a novel, all the immediacy of headline news.
From the Publisher
"A beautifully patterned tapestry of philosophical thought.... A history of ideas that possesses all the drama of a novel, all the immediacy of headline news."—The New York Times

"The perfect guide through the complex radical changes that have swept Western societies.... A brilliant, convincing work ... humane, compassionate, important."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Overwhelming intelligence ... [Berlin's] mind is captivating.... His reflections ... strike at the heart of our most parroted beliefs."—Washington Post Book World

"As a historian of ideas, [Berlin] has no equal; and what he has to say is expressed in prose of exceptional lucidity and grace."—Anthony Storr, Independent on Sunday

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These erudite essays trace the pedigree of such novel ideals as tolerance, liberty and social equality from the Enlightenment onward and throw our century of massive violence into sharp perspective. (May)
Library Journal
Five of the essays in this new volume of Berlin's thoughts on the history of ideas are published here for the first time and will certainly add to his status as a clear and trenchant analyst of humanity's cherished hopes and dreams. His study of Giambattista Vico, for example, is noteworthy for its reassessment of Vico's place in the history of thought, and the introductory essay, ``The Pursuit of the Ideal,'' is a brilliant examination of the tenacity with which we guard our most deeply held values. This collection is well suited for colleges and universities with strong humanities and social sciences programs.-- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec
Booknews
Originally published in 1990 (John Murray, Ltd., London), this collection of essays by historian/philosopher Berlin contains one early essay (on Joseph de Maistre) which has never previously been published, three essays written in the last decade, and four essays omitted from Hardy's previous edited collections. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The New York Times
A beautifully patterned tapestry of philosophical thought....A history of ideas that possesses all the drama of a novel, all the immediacy of headline news. -- The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691058382
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.86 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Isaiah Berlin was, until his death in 1997, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was renowned as an essayist and as the author of many books, among them "Karl Marx, Four Essays on Liberty, Russian Thinkers, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind," and from Princeton, "Concepts and Categories, Personal Impressions, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas," and "Three Critics of the Enlightenment". Henry Hardy, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin's literary trustees. He has edited several other volumes by Berlin, and is currently preparing Berlin's letters and remaining unpublished writings for publication.

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Table of Contents

Editor's Preface
The Pursuit of the Ideal
The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West
Giambattista Vico and Cultural History
Alleged Relativism in Eighteenth-Century European Thought
Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism
European Unity and its Vicissitudes
The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will: The
Revolt against the Myth of an Ideal World
The Bent Twig: On the Rise of Nationalism
Index

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