Dignity is Everything: Isaiah Berlin and His Jewish Identity.

dc.contributor.advisorGerstein, Linda
dc.contributor.authorChappel, James
dc.date.accessioned2007-02-28T20:28:10Z
dc.date.available2007-02-28T20:28:10Z
dc.date.issued2005
dc.description.abstractThis essay represents my attempt to grapple with the meaning of Isaiah Berlin’s life and work. It is not a dispassionate consideration of his thought; those seeking that are directed to George Crowder’s excellent Isaiah Berlin: Liberty and Pluralism. Nor is it a biography, as Michael Ignatieff has already written a very fine one. It is rather my attempt to answer the following personal question: why is it that Berlin is such a wildly attractive figure to me? I had dabbled in philosophy and intellectual history before encountering Berlin. But when I read him for the first time, I felt like the Piltdown Man stumbling upon New York City. Ideas came to life, and the history of thought became exciting and important. But the army that sprang from the dragon’s teeth was not staid and dull. Berlin delights in ideas that flash instead of plod, coming from thinkers more like the warriors of the Old Testament than the benevolent preachers of the New. And when I began to read Berlin’s purely philosophical works, it struck me that these terrifying but fascinating ideas were not absent from his own thought: modified, surely, but not entirely ignored as they were by other liberals, then and now. This essay is my attempt to ascertain how and why Berlin’s ideas “flash” like those of de Maistre, instead of seeming limp and dull like those of John Dewey and Karl Popper, two of the most estimable liberals of the 20th century. Berlin’s wit, which has ever remained his most attractive feature to me, is much closer to the aristocratic hauteur of the conservative Waugh than the bitter acerbity of Bertrand Russell. As the Queen Mother once reputedly said of Isaiah Berlin: he is “such fun!”
dc.description.sponsorshipHaverford College. Department of History
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10066/672
dc.language.isoeng
dc.rights.accessOpen Access
dc.rights.urihttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
dc.subject.lcshBerlin, Isaiah, Sir
dc.subject.lcshBerlin, Isaiah, Sir -- Philosophy
dc.subject.lcshJews -- Identity
dc.titleDignity is Everything: Isaiah Berlin and His Jewish Identity.
dc.typeThesis
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