Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

Coordinators: Brockliss Laurence, Robertson Ritchie

Language: Anglais
Cover of the book Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

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272 p. · 16.4x23.9 cm · Hardback
Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) was recognized as Britain's most distinguished historian of ideas. Many of his essays discussed thinkers of what this book calls the 'long Enlightenment' (from Vico in the eighteenth century to Marx and Mill in the nineteenth, with Machiavelli as a precursor). Yet he is particularly associated with the concept of the 'Counter-Enlightenment', comprising those thinkers (Herder, Hamann, and even Kant) who in Berlin's view reacted against the Enlightenment's naïve rationalism, scientism and progressivism, its assumption that human beings were basically homogeneous and could be rendered happy by the remorseless application of scientific reason. Berlin's 'Counter-Enlightenment' has received critical attention, but no-one has yet analysed the understanding of the Enlightenment on which it rests. Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment explores the development of Berlin's conception of the Enlightenment, noting its curious narrowness, its ambivalence, and its indebtedness to a specific German intellectual tradition. Contributors to the book examine his comments on individual writers, showing how they were inflected by his questionable assumptions, and arguing that some of the writers he assigned to the 'Counter-Enlightenment' have closer affinities to the Enlightenment than he recognized. By locating Berlin in the history of Enlightenment studies, this book also makes a contribution to defining the historical place of his work and to evaluating his intellectual legacy.
Laurence Brockliss was born in London and educated at the University of Cambridge. He was a lecturer in history at the University of Hull from 1974 to 1984. Since then he has been a tutor in history at Magdalen College Oxford and a lecturer, reader and professor in history at the University of Oxford. He works on the history of education, science and medicine in early-modern France and Britain and has a general interest in the history of European ideas. He is married with three children and four grandchildren. Ritchie Robertson was born in Nairn, Scotland, and educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. He has held temporary teaching posts in Oxford and Cambridge, was Fellow and Tutor in German at St John's College, Oxford, from 1989 to 2010, and is now Taylor Professor of German and a Fellow of the Queen's College. He has held a Humbolddt Fellowship and been a visiting professor in Berlin. In 2004 he was elected to the British Academy. He is married with two stepchildren.