Unfinished Dialogue

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Unfinished Dialogue is the fruit of nearly fifteen years of discussion—in person and by letter—between world-famous British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) and Dr. Beata Polanowska-Sygulska of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Berlin always felt a special affinity for scholars from Eastern Europe, and the unique chemistry between him and this younger enthusiast for his ideas yielded a remarkable body of material, most of it hitherto unpublished.
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Unfinished Dialogue

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Unfinished Dialogue is the fruit of nearly fifteen years of discussion—in person and by letter—between world-famous British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) and Dr. Beata Polanowska-Sygulska of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Berlin always felt a special affinity for scholars from Eastern Europe, and the unique chemistry between him and this younger enthusiast for his ideas yielded a remarkable body of material, most of it hitherto unpublished.
This volume sheds considerable light on Berlin’s thinking, clarifying some of the central themes of his philosophy. Divided into four sections, the book begins with a selection from the correspondence between Berlin and Polanowska-Sygulska dating from 1983 to 1997. These letters are published here in their entirety for the first time. The second section comprises two interviews Berlin gave in 1991 for Polish periodicals. Next come edited transcripts of a number of recorded conversations that took place between 1986 and 1995. In one conversation, Berlin tellingly recalls his childhood and youth. In other exchanges, the famous conversationalist is pressed to be more precise about some of his most contested views, particularly his concepts of liberty and value pluralism, and to give his response to criticism of these ideas by a wide range of authors. In one of his last letters to Dr. Polanowska-Sygulska, Berlin stated, "I have never expressed myself so clearly before, I believe."
The book concludes with a collection of articles on Berlin’s thought by Dr. Polanowska-Sygulska, stemming from her long-standing immersion in his work. Berlin himself thoroughly discussed three of these with the author and approved their publication.
Complete with a foreword by Henry Hardy, Berlin’s editor and collaborator of thirty years, and now one of his literary trustees, this fascinating collection of letters, conversations, and articles will be of the greatest interest to students and scholars of one of the 20th –century’s most renowned intellectuals.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beata Polanowska-Sygulska has given us an invaluable guide to the thought of one of the twentieth century's great liberal thinkers. In letters, interviews and conversations Isaiah Berlin reveals the essence of his philosophy and relates it to the events of his life. It is a unique record, and together with Polanowska-Sygulska's pentetrating interpretive essays this book will prove indispensable to anyone interested in political theory and the history of ideas in the twentieth century."
John Gray, Professor of European Thought
London School of Economics
Author of Isaiah Berlin
Library Journal
For 15 years, British philosopher Berlin (1909-97) and Polish scholar Polanowska-Sygulska (theory & philosophy of law, Jagiellonian Univ., Krak w, Poland; Visages of Liberalism) corresponded and occasionally met at Oxford, during which time the latter probed the former on his most basic views. Berlin believed that attempts to supplement negative freedom (freedom from interference in one's life and speech) with positive freedom (actual empowerment to do things) tended to result in the kind of utopian planning that forced people into ideological straitjackets. Polanowska-Sygulska confronted him with the arguments of his sharpest critics, but Berlin stood his ground without adding much to the puzzle. The weakness of the book is that while his interlocutor asks the hard questions, she rather tamely accepts the old answers. The result, as Berlin's longtime editor, Henry Hardy, says in his foreword, is "at times exhilarating, at times frustrating." Most interesting are the passages in which Berlin contests the assertions of Georg Hegel, the godfather of positive freedom. Unfinished Dialogue includes letters, transcripts of recorded conversation, and articles by Polanowska-Sygulska on the philosopher. Academic libraries will need this book, but ordinary readers interested in the questions will find it entertaining as well.-Leslie Armour, Dominican Univ. Coll., Ottawa Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591023760
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) spent a long, distinguished career at Oxford University, where he was Professor of Social and Political Theory, a Fellow of All Souls College, and founding President of Wolfson College. Among his many books are Karl Marx, Russian Thinkers (including "The Hedgehog and the Fox"), The Age of Enlightenment, and Liberty (including "Historical Inevitability" and "Two Concepts of Liberty").
Beata Polanowska-Sygulska, Ph.D. (Cracow, Poland), works in the Department of Theory and Philosophy of Law at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, and is the author of two books in Polish on Isaiah Berlin, Isaiah Berlin’s Philosophy of Freedom and Visages of Liberalism, as well as many scholarly articles.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    Recommended for intermediate to advanced philosophy students.

    Unfinished Dialogue is a published record of correspondence between Oxford University Professor of Social and Political Theory Isaiah Berlin, and Dr. Beata Polanowska-Sygulska, as conducted as conducted from 1983 to 1997. Selections from their exchange of letters, published for the first time, form the first of four sections the next three are comprised of two interviews Berlin gave in 1991 for Polish periodicals, edited transcripts of conversations recorded between 1986 and 1995, and an allotment of articles by Polanowska-Sygulska on Berlin's thought, as derived from her years of immersion in his work. Berlin's philosophical ideas, and his affinity for the Eastern-European perspective of Polanowska-Sygulska, show through in this serious-minded, respectful, and extensively detailed analysis of the interplay between two great minds. At times fairly technical, Unfinished Dialogue is recommended for intermediate to advanced philosophy students.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2010

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