Berlin, Sir Isaiah.
Berlin, Sir Isaiah
(1909 - ) Latvian - born English philosopher. Berlin's family emigrated from Russia to England when he was eleven. His writings are concerned with the history of ideas and with the role of ideas in political action. Berlin makes a distinction between two visions of reality: that of the monists, who believe in a single, unifying principle, and that of the pluralists, who embrace many, often contradictory, theories of being. Adopting a phrase from Archilochus, " The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows but one big thing, " Berlin's famous essay The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953) suggests that Tolstoy's view of history was determined by an unending struggle between the two visions. In Historical Inevitability (1955), the same distinction is applied to questions of determinism and free choice. Four Essays on Liberty (1968), a landmark in political philosophy, articulates Berlin's belief that man is morally free and is able to affect the events in his life. Russian Thinkers (1978) is the first of four volumes of his collected writings. It was followed by Concepts and Categories (1979), philosophical writings; Against the Current (1980), essays on the history of ideas; and Personal Impressions (1981), reflections on important figures Berlin knew whose ideas became the visions that shaped their lives.