Isaiah Berlin: Against Dogma

A simple list of Isaiah Berlin’s principal beliefs, stripped of the rich detail and nuance that he always supplied, may strike the reader as so obvious as to be banal; yet his positions have not always been taken as obvious. Berlin occasionally defined genius as the ability to turn a paradox into a platitude, and part of his own genius was to effect such a transformation about matters central to human self-understanding, which he saw as the fundamental objective of philosophy. “Know thyself”, as the ancient maxim has it. Consider the summary of Berlin’s views that follows: how many of them were once, or still are, considered controversial?

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