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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: 23 September 2021

Sympathy and Empathy

Sympathy and Empathy

Isaiah’s Dilemma, or How He Let the Enlightenment Down

(p.113) 8 Sympathy and Empathy
Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

T. J. Reed

Oxford University Press

Isaiah Berlin often declared his sympathy for the Enlightenment, but never expressed it without criticisms of the over-generalized kind typical of the Enlightenment’s avowed assailants. In contrast, he entered with empathy and the full force of his rhetoric into what he called the Counter-Enlightenment. Kant, for instance, scarcely figures as the enlightening force he was in every area of philosophy. He is left out entirely from an Enlightenment anthology, and is positively present only in a single favourite quotation (‘the crooked timber of humanity’), which is then misrepresented. This disproportion, and the frequency with which it was embodied in essay after essay, left a negative view of the Enlightenment standing by default. Not only was this a highly dubious version of intellectual history, but the over-fastidious ‘taking for granted’ of the ideas with which Isaiah ultimately sided was a significant loss to the liberal cause.

Keywords:   Kant, sympathy, empathy, Hamann, Russian Revolution

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