Isaiah Berlin

This And That-Some Links On This Site

A conversation I keep hearing in Seattle, elevated somewhat:

This new society, this modern society, this secular society:  This will be more open, more tolerant, more equal, and more fair.  Look at all the progress around you!  The moral, the scientific, social and personal are being united into a single whole.  Evil and the stuff of human nature can be tamed, treated, and labeled. Much knowledge has been gained; it’s mostly a matter of design and implentation now.  Get to work; be someone and do something, politics included. Go global. Think Enlightenment.

That old society, that pre-modern society, that religious and traditional society: How quaint!  How oppressive! Have the courage to venture from its metaphysical ruins and local rituals. Don’t sleepwalk through its indefensible truth claims, mistaken honor, violence and war.  What it cannot forget it will not remember. ‘

As posted:

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

More On Nietzsche’s influence-Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic Greek (the beginning of the end).

Quote found here at (recovering Kantian idealism and moving in a libertarian direction):

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellctual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”…Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Also On This Site: Karl Popper, Milton Friedman, Austrian Economics and maybe Thomas Sowell: From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

In Romantic Nature Poetry, Where Are You? How Should You Live And What Should You Do? -Photo & A Poem By Mary Oliver

Flare, Part 12

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will wither or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

Mary Oliver (The Leaf And The Cloud: A Poem)

Hosta Shell 2

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism.

Thanks, reader:

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’ A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…
See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume

From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism

Thanks, reader:

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

Fred Siegel, at The New Criterion, takes a look at the influence of German thought on American politics and populism, from Nietzsche via H.L Mencken, to the Frankfurt School, to Richard Hofstader via Paul Krugman:

Populism, IV: The German victory over American populism

He puts forth the idea that the German influence has eroded something significant about American popular thought, leading to his analysis of our current politics:

Obama was ‘post-Constitutional,’ and Trump is the post Tea-Party, post Anglo-egalitarian populist response:

‘The Germans have won: Mencken and the Frankfurt School each in their own way have displaced civic egalitarianism. Their disdain has become commonplace among upper-middle- class liberals. This might not have produced the current nausea if the pretensions of our professionals were matched by their managerial competence. It isn’t, and the German victory is moving us towards a soft civil war.’


Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin, as a youth fled a well-integrated family of Latvian Jews to Britain (for his life), subsequently spending more time with Marx than any man should…but also Mill, is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray is criticizing many claims to progress in ethics and politics in the Western World, with a heavy Nietzschean influence (man is still capable of great barbarism & achievement) Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Leo Strauss was a Nietzschean for a while…and put forth the idea that within waves of modern thought during the Enlightenment was also the destruction that wracked the German State and replaced it with the dog’s breakfast of Nazi thought:Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

On that note, Kelley Ross takes a look at the influence of Hegel on Roger Scruton’s thinking, and distinguishes his own project from Kant to Schopenhauer to Leonard Fries:

‘At the same time, there is the irony and paradox of this treatment that Scruton is “considered to be one of the world’s leading conservative philosophers” — which is what it says on the cover of his own book. But “conservative” thinkers are not generally happy with the cognitive and moral relativism that follows from anything like Wittgenstein’s thought, and even from, as we shall see, Scruton’s own analysis of Wittgenstein’s thought. This is particularly surprising given the devastating critique in Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Thinkers of the New Left [Bloomsbury, 2015], which exposes the irrational “nonsense machine” of “post-modernism” and “Critical Theory” Marxism. But even in that book, and in the passage I have just quoted, there is a clue to what is going on and to what kind of “conservative” Scruton may be. And that is, in the former, his benign and complacent attitude towards Hegel, and, in the latter, the impression he gives that the “ambition” of Kant and Hegel is comparable or even equivalent.

But the project and principles of Hegel are quite alien to those of Kant; and so we must worry what Scruton seems to think they have in common. Well, we have just seen it. Removing “the ‘self’ from the beginning of knowledge” is where Scruton puts Kant, Hegel, and Wittgenstein all together. There is a sense, indeed, that we can construe Kant as having done this, but everything else is so different that it shocks the conscience to have Scruton’s affirmation of some kind of identity. Thus, the moral principle of the dignity and autonomy of the individual self, defined and established by Kant with such clarity and emphasis, is entirely missing from Hegel’s heteronomy, and, of course, it is not to be found, with any other principle of morality or ethics, in Wittgenstein, where the possibility of any such philosophical discipline is (famously, or infamously) ruled out. That Scruton seems insensible of this allows the suspicion that his “conservativism” is of the sort of Hegel himself, with Wittgenstein’s own silence on the subject defaulting to the existing moral and political order otherwise valorized by the Hegelian judicial positivism that made the Kingdom of Prussia the paradigm of ideal government.’

Any thoughts/comments are welcome.

Some Sunday Links-The People Shall One Day Control The Means Of Recreation

Michael Moynihan on British historian’s Eric Hobsbawm more recent estimation amongst many chatterati.

Let’s not forget:

‘In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied.’

That interview here.

Moynihan finishes with:

“How to Change the World” shows us little more than how an intellectual has committed his life not to exploring and stress-testing an ideology but to stubbornly defending it. The brand of Marxism that Eric Hobsbawm champions is indeed a way to “change the world.” It already did. And it was a catastrophe.’

From the De Blasio files, at the NY Daily News:

Let Orchard Beach be a beach of The People!:

‘A bright new future dawns for Orchard Beach with Mayor de Blasio’s promise to commit money to upgrading the great Bronx Riviera.’

The People shall one day control the means of recreation:

‘Now, de Blasio, who has committed to spending park money fairly in rich and poor neighborhoods, has the chance to right the scales of recreational justice, in the process improving life for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers as a major part of his legacy.’

(Addition): Apparently, this is how you rope the People’s Revolutionary Representative into money for your pet project when he’s out for a photo-op (end).

Let’s hope this isn’t a Red Dawn, dear reader, where we find ourselves somewhere beyond the dunes and dressing rooms of the once great Bronx Riviera; filthy, exhausted, huddled around a beach campfire, gathering the shards of recent history that have led us to our fates.

What if history is nothing but an abandoned Orchard Beach bathhouse full of spiders?’…mutters Powers Boothe, clenching his teeth, pouring his hooch onto the fire.

It rages up into the starless night.

C. Thomas Howell muffles a sob.


As previously posted, some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss.

Yes, these ideas are responsible for the deaths of thousands, right now, in real time.  To say nothing of a few lost generations of human potential, hopes, dreams and basic securities.

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

How’s that Russian reset going?:


What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Related On This Site:  What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform


From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Full piece here.

The old liberal vs libertarian battle rehashed…link sent in by a reader:

Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” found here.

According to Monbiot, libertarian conservatives in Britain (and I presume America) have turned “freedom into tyranny.”  He uses Isaiah Berlin’s definition of “negative liberty” to accuse said libertarians of not living up to it, and thus apparently, becoming tyrannous:

‘As Berlin noted, “no man’s activity is so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in any way. ‘Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows’”. So, he argued, some people’s freedom must sometimes be curtailed “to secure the freedom of others.” In other words, your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. The negative freedom not to have our noses punched is the freedom that green and social justice campaigns, exemplified by the Occupy movement, exist to defend.’

Yes, some people’s freedoms must sometimes be curtailed to ‘secure the freedoms of others.’  This is why we have laws.  No man is an island.  Most libertarians, I think, would agree that one fundamental freedom is the freedom from violence, whatever his/her moral reasoning.

I would also admit that greed (and unreflected pursuit of self-interest in a twisted system of incentives), in part, led to the bundling of bad debt and its sale to hapless investors that’s occurred on Wall Street.  A good libertarian, however, would also argue that those incentives were helped to be skewed by people seeking social justice, increased home-ownership, an expanded middle-class, and also political self-interest and money.  In this case, the very people standing up for liberty (rights based liberty…justice…a piece of the pie), also have arguably posed threats to negative freedom and contributed to the mess we’re in.

Regardless, it’s not clear to me that the recession impinges upon an individual’s negative freedom.


Instead of focusing on social justice nor the negative freedoms of the greens (for which Monbiot, as many greens do, uses a Romantic poet’s conception of Nature as central), there are the Occupy protestors.

The negative freedom of protesters, to my knowledge, was not impinged upon very much nor very often.  They exercised both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly within legal limits (and they can’t rebuild at Zuccotti Park again, lawfully).  Eventually, many protestors impinged upon other citizen’s negative freedom by taking over public and private spaces for themselves, making those spaces unclean and unsafe, and even criminally dangerous.  It turns out the State (through the police force) had to eventually intervene and protect many of the protestors from one another.

Monbiot continues:

‘Claire Fox is a feared interrogator on the BBC show The Moral Maze. Yet when I asked her a simple question – “do you accept that some people’s freedoms intrude upon other people’s freedoms?” – I saw an ideology shatter like a windscreen. I used the example of a Romanian lead smelting plant I had visited in 2000, whose freedom to pollute is shortening the lives of its neighbours(7). Surely the plant should be regulated in order to enhance the negative freedoms – freedom from pollution, freedom from poisoning – of its neighbours? ‘

I can’t speak for Ms. Fox, but yes, people’s health can be negatively impacted by industrial activity, and I don’t imagine it’s hard to find such injustice near a smelting plant, nor people who worked with asbestos, nor say Chernobyl, nor even in, say, rapidly industrializing, old Communist China.   But this particular plant is in Romania (and I will take Monbiot’s one cited study as valid).  Politics is best done locally and I should hope the people so affected have legal recourse in Romania.  It’s not clear how effective Monbiot’s definition of liberty, narrowed to fit a global green ideology, would be in practically helping Romanian villagers to be negatively free.

He continues:

‘Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint. It pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It ignores the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free. It denies the need for the state to curb them in order to protect the freedoms of weaker people. This bastardised, one-eyed philosophy is a con trick, whose promoters attempt to wrongfoot justice by pitching it against liberty. By this means they have turned “freedom” into an instrument of oppression.’

Now that Monbiot has his definition of freedom, he draws a small circle around it and proceeds to demonize the opposition (with a lot of heated rhetoric and political posturing).   Of course, this is actually quite an illiberal stance to take.

No, the State isn’t the only entity (made up of people) which intrudes upon our liberties.  We need to be protected from one another, and from public and private groups of people pursuing their own interests and from the tyranny of the mob.  The U.S., at least, is a nation of laws.

Yes, banks, incorporated entities and “the rich” can by Berlin’s definition, intrude upon the negative freedoms of individuals (eminent domain, abuse or manipulations of law, crony capitalism, lawful but ethically challenged business practices).  But consistent libertarians stand up for such causes every day (see Reason Magazine).  Non-libertarians and a plurality, if not a majority, of Americans recognize that such activites are the price of having a both free and open society, and of being equal under the law.


Additionally, I take Berlin’s point about positive freedom to mean that for each of us it’s necessary to maintain our moral lights enough to also protect us from ourselves and our passions.  One way people choose to do this is through the moral doctrines of the Church (God is free and thus so is Man, cast as he is in God’s image…with free will to choose).  Religious zeal, righteous certainty, passionate conviction and blind belief are threats to liberty of course, but they are not merely the province of religion.

Related On This Site:  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

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A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Full text found here. (updated)

I wanted to focus a little on how Berlin discusses Kant’s influence, and how it may affect liberalism and classical liberalism, especially in the Anglo-American tradition.

Positive liberty for Berlin involves action, and what one must do to protect his/her own freedom, in part, from one’s own self and the passions.  Yet, also, like the hard-hearted Stoics in ancient Rome or the Christian or Buddhist aesthetic, positive liberty can involve what one must do to withdraw from the world around one’s self, and the injustices of a tyrant or the tyranny of the many.  Philosophers and deep thinkers are often doing this, building structures in the shadows which live long after them.

I should mention, however, that after Kant, it is no longer possible to prove the existence of God, so a transcendent being is replaced with what one must do to exercise the use of one’s own reason, and presumably, discover reality, or the phenomenal reality one can discover beyond Kant’s complex metaphysical framework.

Negative liberty for Berlin, on the other hand,  is freedom from coercion, much like the Lockean ideas of Life and Liberty.

“I am usually said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity.”

It is what many here in the West often mean by freedom.  This kind of freedom, when you think about it, is a kind of rarity, even in Europe, as this past century was a bloody one:

“Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a philosopher’s study could destroy a civilization.  He spoke of Kant’s Critique Of Pure Reason as the sword with which German deism had been decapitated, and described the works of Rousseau as the blood-stained weapon which, in the hands of Robespierre, had destroyed the old regime; and prophesied that the Romantic faith of Fichte and Schelling would one day be turned, with terrible effect, by their fanatical German followers, against the liberal culture of the West.

“…The facts have not wholly belied this prediction…”

Personally, I thought Nietzsche thought he had found the solution to Kant’s statement of the problem:  the uberman, or someone who will creatively, and through a supreme act of the will, make new values for mankind now that God is dead.  As Berlin points out, this is strangely similar to what one imagines a tyrant might think gazing out at those over whom he rules.

It’s probably too obvious to identify Kant merely as “German,” and thus alien to a kind of liberalism we (and yes the French, the French Republic is still going strong) enjoy.

Berlin sees the potential for dangerous perfectionism in Kant perhaps, but especially what came after Kant’s thought, and identifies it largely as a form “positive” liberty, and also identifies some of the political/philosophical consequences, one obvious path being through Hegel, Schelling and Fichte:

“Let me state them (sic, the premises) once more:  first, that all men have one true purpose, and one-only, that of rational self-direction; second, that the ends of all rational beings must of necessity fit into a single universal, harmonious pattern, which some men may be able to discern more clearly than others; third, that all conflict, and consequently all tragedy, is due solely to the clash of reason with the irrational or the insufficiently rational-the immature and undeveloped elements in life, whether individual or communal…finally, that when all men have been made rational, they will obey the rational laws of their own natures, which are one and the same in them all, and so be at once wholly law-abiding and wholly free.”

Such thinkers tried to implement and systematize Kant’s thought and post-Kantian thought into something that became and still becomes an eventual threat to negative liberty.  Reason eventually became and becomes used like a blunt instrument for the actors in such systems. It granted license to the creation of institutions who in a sense, “know better” than individuals what is best for them.  This, of course, has given way to monstrous totalitariansim, corruption, and the horrors of Stalinist Russia, Mao’s China etc.  Some would argue a kind of Kantian prosthetic Christian moralism has dominated.

Yet, as for the tension between positive and negative liberty, Berlin makes an argument similar to the one which Karl Popper made (as Austria and the Continent descended into a second world war):  freedom and equality are in constant tension, and not necessarily compatible with one another,which is an idea which we in America can witness in our politics daily:

“Everything is what it is:  liberty is liberty, not equality or justice or fairness or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.  If liberty of myself or my class or my nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral.  but if I curtail or lose my freedom in order to lessen the shame of such inequality, and do not thereby materially increase the individual liberty of others, an absolute loss of liberty occurs.”

Out of this, Berlin thought that his defense of classical liberalism, (John Rawls was a friend of his), which has come to be called value pluralism, is his most important work:

“Pluralism, with the measure of negative liberty that it entails, seems to me a truer and more human ideal than the goals of those who seek in the great disciplined, authoritarian structures, the ideal of positive self-mastery by classes, or peoples, or the whole of mankind.  It is truer, because it does, at least, recognise that human goals are many, not all of them commensurable, and in perpetual rivalry with each other.”

A Russian/Latvian…a romantic…an idealist…a Kantian…A Classical Liberal…An Historian Of ideas…coming to terms with Western liberalism?  providing an effective defense of it?

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Update:  Berlin may not really take sides on the positive/negative divide, or perhaps we should say:  If you are inclined to seek a more favorable view of the negative view, as I am, that Berlin offers much to recommend it.  However, he doesn’t really come down entirely in favor of the negative view.  Negative liberty is being left alone (i.e. not being enslaved physically and/or economically), positive liberty is should you have/gain your freedom, the possibility of acting freely towards your purposes as an individual (those purposes just may not be the dangerous ideological/rational purposes found within much Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought and doctrine).

There is a very strong Romantic/Enlightenment tension within Berlin’s thought.

Negative liberty has tremendous advantages, and Berlin took something of a stand against some Communists at Oxford during his time there. However, there may be some problems with the moral claims to this is a good model for liberalism long-term:

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on value-pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

Via a reader:  A supplemental lecture as part of a course on many liberal thinkers, this lecture focuses on Berlin:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Addition: More from Stanford here.

Addition:  As a tool to help understand some very complex thinking and broad periods of time, it seems quite useful.  It also seems pretty dualistic. another addition (not the philosophical definition).

See Also On This Site:  Positive and negative rights are also a part of Leo Strauss’ thinking (persona non-grata nowadays), and Strauss thought you were deluded if your were going to study politics from afar, as a “science.”  There has been much dispute about this: .Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

A Modern Liberal, somewhat Aristotelian and classical?:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Samuel Huntington was quite humble, and often wise, about what political philosophy could do:  From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’

Isaiah Berlin by pbear6150

by pbear6150