Isaiah Berlin  

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"One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals - justice or progress or the happiness of future generations, or the sacred mission or emancipation of a nation or race or class, or even liberty itself, which demands the sacrifice of individuals for the freedom of society. This is the belief that somewhere, in the past or in the future, in divine revelation or in the mind of an individual thinker, in the pronouncements of history or science, or in the simple heart of an uncorrupted good man, there is a final solution." --Two Concepts of Liberty (1958) by Isaiah Berlin

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Sir Isaiah Berlin, OM (June 6 1909November 5 1997) was a political philosopher and historian of ideas, regarded as one of the leading liberal thinkers of the twentieth century. He excelled as an essayist, lecturer and conversationalist; a brilliant speaker who made rapid and spontaneous delivery of richly referenced material, coherently structured, whether for a lecture series at Oxford University or as a broadcaster on the BBC Third Programme, usually without notes. Many of his lectures were collected later in book form.

Born in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire, he was the first person of Jewish descent to be elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. From 1957 to 1967, he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he helped to found Wolfson College, Oxford, and became its first President. He was knighted in 1957, and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom.

Berlin's work on liberal theory has had a lasting influence. His 1958 inaugural lecture, "Two Concepts of Liberty", famous for its distinction between positive and negative liberty, has informed much of the debate since then on the relationship between liberty and other values.


Major works

Apart from Unfinished Dialogue and the 4th edition of Karl Marx, all publications listed from 1978 onwards are compilations or transcripts of various lectures, essays, and letters, edited by Henry Hardy. Details given are of first and current UK editions. For US editions see link above.

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