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Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment$
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Laurence Brockliss and Ritchie Robertson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198783930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783930.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 September 2021

Isaiah Berlin’s Neglect of Enlightenment Constitutionalism

Isaiah Berlin’s Neglect of Enlightenment Constitutionalism

(p.205) 15 Isaiah Berlin’s Neglect of Enlightenment Constitutionalism
Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

Jeremy Waldron

Oxford University Press

Enlightenment constitutionalism established the idea of a constitution as an intricate mechanism designed to house the untidiness and pluralism of human politics. It left, as one of its most important legacies, the unprecedented achievement of the framing and ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Yet Isaiah Berlin, supposedly one of our greatest interpreters of the Enlightenment, said almost nothing about it. This chapter speculates about the reasons for this neglect. Was it because it leant spurious credibility to Berlin’s well-known claim that Enlightenment social design was perfectionist, monistic, and potentially totalitarian? By ignoring Enlightenment constitutionalism, Berlin implicitly directed us away from precisely the body of work that might have refuted this view of Enlightenment social design.

Keywords:   constitutionalism, government, Montesquieu, Federalist Papers, liberty

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