Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin became one of our century's most important political theorists
for liberty and liberalism in an age of totalitarianism. He was born in Riga,

Latvia in 1909 into a well to do Jewish family. At the age of 12 he moved to

Petrograd and experienced first hand the Bolshevik revolution, which would later
influence his intellectual ideas about totalitarianism (Gray 3). In 1921 his
family moved to London and sent Isaiah to school. His schooling lead him to

Oxford where he took a position as philosophy professor in 1931. His English
schooling led him to become a disciple of classical liberalism in the English
tradition of Mill, Locke, and others (Berger). During World War II the British
put him to work in their Foreign Service department where he became a favorite
advisor of Churchill (Honderich 92). After the war his major political theory
was developed as he moved into political philosophy and history as his areas of
emphasis. His most famous and important works, a lecture, "Two Concepts on

Liberty", and an essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox" where produced in the

1950's. Knighted in 1957 and he became the first Jewish fellow at Oxford's

All Souls College and chair of social and political theory at Oxford. After that
he later became president of the newly created Wolfson College and then

President of the British Academy (Honderich 92). After his death in 1997
historian Arthur Schlesinger stated that he is one of the finest liberal
thinkers and political theorists of the twentieth century (Schlesinger 1).

Isaiah Berlin is unique among intellectuals in the fact the he didn't produce
a magnum opus during his life. He stated, "that he had no desire to sit in
front of a desk with a blank piece of paper," and didn't care about it
influencing his academic legacy (Berger). Most of his works came in the form of
essay's and lectures, as his two most famous are, "The Hedgehog and the

Fox" and "Two Concepts of Liberty." He wrote few actual books and had most
of his work collected and published by Henry Hardy, once of his graduate
students (Gray 4). He never tried to advocate a certain political philosophy and
was actually quite against any "right" political philosophy. Through his
essays and lectures he made critiques on the current systems and made
observations on liberty, nationalism, and socialism. A strict stand against
totalitarianism is one of the concepts that can be seen throughout much of

Berlin's work. His strong liberal views clashed with totalitarianism in age
where it dominated. Much of his distaste also came from his own personal
experience with communism and fascism. He lived during the Russian Revolution
and saw first hand its effect on the Russian people. "I was never
pro-communist. Never...anyone who had, like me, seen the Russian revolution at
work was not likely to be tempted (Houston Chronicle News Service)." He
detested fascism but not as vocally as communism since most of it had been
eradicated during World War II. Berlin had relatives during World War II left in

Riga who where killed both by Nazi and Soviet Communist forces (Gray 3). This
fact no doubt further heightened his contempt for both systems. An essay in 1953
entitled the "Hedgehog and the Fox" became one of his most popular works in
the United States. Taking its name from a line by the Greek poet Archilochus, it
was one part literary criticism on War and Peace and an attack on the
inevitability of history (Greenburg). Initially published under the title "Leo

Tolstoy's Historical Sceptiscism" he changed it to the, which according to

British Publisher George Weidenfeld did more for his reputation than any other (Greenburg).

Berlin asserted that individual's act freely in history and has a choice in
their destiny. Tolstoy took the Marxian view that history was inevitable. "The
characters despite the constraints of circumstance according to Berlin act
freely and thus are morally accountable for their decisions" (Greenburg).

Berlin thought that the characters still had free wills over their choices
despite the situation they where in and thus history was undecided. This attack
on historical inevitability shows Berlin's distaste for Marx's philosophy,
particularly the Bolshevik brand of communism. Berlin's contention with the

Marxian view of history has to do with historical anthropology of Marx. Marx
asserts in his works that national culture would simply go away under communism
and if it did survive, it wouldn't hold any political importance (Gray 94). He
strongly stands against this view on the grounds humans being so vastly
different in culture that they wouldn't be able to lose their national
identities (Gray 96). This