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Four Essays On

Liberty is the new and expanded edition of Isaiah Berlin’s Four Essays on Liberty, a modern classic of liberalism. These essays, of which the best known is ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, do not offer a systematic account of liberalism, but instead deploy a view of being, knowledge, and value which was calculated by Berlin to rule totalitarian thinking out of court. The new edition adds to the four, ‘From Hope and Fear set free’, which reinforces Berlin’s argument and which he wanted to include in the original edition. Three further essays, and three autobiographical appendices have been included, ... More

Liberty is the new and expanded edition of Isaiah Berlin’s Four Essays on Liberty, a modern classic of liberalism. These essays, of which the best known is ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, do not offer a systematic account of liberalism, but instead deploy a view of being, knowledge, and value which was calculated by Berlin to rule totalitarian thinking out of court. The new edition adds to the four, ‘From Hope and Fear set free’, which reinforces Berlin’s argument and which he wanted to include in the original edition. Three further essays, and three autobiographical appendices have been included, so that all Berlin’s principal statements on liberty are gathered together. The whole is introduced by Berlin’s editor, Henry Hardy.

Keywords: Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, Henry Hardy, knowledge, liberalism, liberty, totalitarianism, Two Concepts of Liberty, value

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2002Print ISBN-13: 9780199249893
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003DOI:10.1093/019924989X.001.0001

Philosopher, political theorist, and essayist, Isaiah Berlin was born in 1909 to Russian-speaking Jewish parents in Latvia. Reared in Latvia and later in Russia, Berlin developed a strong Russian-Jewish identity, having witnessed both the Social-Democratic and the Bolshevik Revolutions. At the age of 12, Berlin moved with his family to England, where he attended prep school and then St. Paul's. In 1928, he went up as a scholar to Corpus Christi College in Oxford. After an unsuccessful attempt at the Manchester Guardian, Berlin was offered a position as lecturer in philosophy at New College. Almost immediately, he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls. During this time at All Souls, Berlin wrote his brilliant biographical study of Marx, titled Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (1939), for the Home University Library. Berlin continued to teach through early World War II, and was then sent to New York by the Ministry of Information, and subsequently to the Foreign Office in Washington, D.C. It was during these years that he drafted several fine works regarding the changing political mood of the United States, collected in Washington Despatches 1941-1945 (1981). By the end of the war, Berlin had shifted his focus from philosophy to the history of ideas, and in 1950 he returned to All Souls. In 1957, he was elected to the Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory, delivering his influential and best-known inaugural lecture, Two Concepts of Liberty. Berlin died in Oxford on November 5, 1997.

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