A new, fully revised edition of Isaiah Berlin's magnificent history of ideas. Features a new foreword by John Banville.
'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 marshalled vast erudition and eloquence in defence of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political plurality. In The Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our own time: 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.
This new edition features a revised text, a new foreword in which award-winning novelist John Banville discusses Berlin's life and ideas, particularly his defence of pluralism, and a substantial new appendix that provides rich context, including letters and previously uncollected writings by Berlin, notably his virtuoso review of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.
“Berlin restored the history of ideas to its true place as a key to unlock the past and explain the present. It was a notable achievement. This book sustains it.”
Raymond Carr, Spectator
“To read Isaiah Berlin is above all to listen to a voice, effervescent, quizzical, often self-mocking, but always full of gaiety and amusement.”
John Dunn, Times Literary Supplement
“To read Berlin is to sit at an unlit window and see the landscape of European thought illuminated by a spectacular display of fireworks.”
Ian McIntyre, Independent
“A history of ideas that possesses all the drama of a novel, all the immediacy of headline news.”
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times