Isaiah Berlin Lecture

Isaiah Berlin

Prof. Isaiah Berlin was one of the most formidable defenders of philosophical liberalism and distinguished practitioners of the history of ideas. He was born in Riga, Latvia, as the son of a Jewish timber merchant. Berlin's grandfather on his mother's side was a Hasidic rabbi. At the age of 11 Berlin emigrated with his parents to England.

Berlin was educated at St Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. From 1932 he taught at Oxford, where he became friends with A. J. Ayer and other leading analytic philosophers. Berlin was the first Jew to be accepted into the college.

Berlin was a founding father with Austin, Ayer, and others of Oxford philosophy, but after publishing several papers on the rebellion against idealism, he broke away from the general spirit of positivism. With his first book, KARL MARX (1939), Berlin disengaged himself from the fashionable philosophical trends, and started his lifelong examination of such thinkers as Vico, Herzen, Herder, Tolstoy, Machiavelli, and such topics as liberty, determinism, relativism, historicism, nationalism - and his most distinctive doctrine: pluralism.

From 1947 to 1958 Berlin wrote and lectured at Oxford, in London, and in several American universities. Between the years 1957 and 1967 Berlin held the prestigious Chichele Chair in Social and Political Theory at Oxford. He was also a professor at the City University of New York.

Berlin died in 1997 in Oxford of a heart attack following a long illness at the age of 88. He married in 1956 Aline de Gunzbourg, a Frenchwoman; she had three sons from previous marriages. "I don't mind death," he once said, "But I find dying a nuisance. I object to it."

Selected works:
KARL MARX: HIS LIFE AND ENVIRONMENT, 1939 - suom.
HISTORICAL INEVITABLITY, 1955
THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT, 1956
TWO CONCEPTS OF LIBERTY, 1958
FOUR ESSAYS ON LIBERTY, 1969
THE DIVORCE BETWEEN THE SCIENCES AND THE HUMANITIES, 1974
VICO AND HERDER: TWO STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF IDEAS, 1976
RUSSIAN THINKERS, 1978 (ed. by Henry Hardy)
CONCEPTS AND CATEGORIES: PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS, 1978
AGAINST THE CURRENT, 1979
PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS, 1980
THE CROOKED TIMBER OF HISTORY, 1990
RUSSIAN THINKERS, 1992
THE MAGUS OF THE NORTH, 1993 (ed. by Henry Hardy)
THE SENSE OF REALITY, 1996 (ed. by Henry Hardy)
THE PROPER STUDY OF MANKIND, 1997
THE ROOTS OF ROMANTICISM, 1999 (ed. by Henry Hardy)
THE FIRST AND THE LAST, 1999
LETTERS, 1928-1946, 2004 (ed. by Henry Hardy)

Opening Words - Isaiah Berlin Lecture, 2005

Past Isaiah Berlin Lectures are available under "Past Events".