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. S th t s gi i ph ng b n y l s th t H y t gi i ph ng m nh. A terrific book that inspired me and made me want to study philosophy at university in the first place Reading my rather grubby copy at least I didn t make notes on it so many years later tells me that I made the right choice and inspires me again What is freedom what do we mean by that word Do we mean the total freedom of anarchy although even Proudhon makes it clear that our duties temper our rights , or freedom from oppression Can we, in fact, make any choices at all, if we are determined by our situations, our personalities, or perhaps by something greater than ourselves Berlin s writing is as fresh and accessible and the questions that he addresses as relevant as they always were His analysis of political thought is depressingly as on the money as it was when he wrote it Why Because remarkably little has actually changed The idea that the bovine masses do not need or want free choice, that they find it confusing and irony oppressive and need to have someone who really understands what they need and provides it for them is treated to a pretty thorough dissection This idea is described in action in the brilliant Iron Curtain History, with a capital H for some writers, is also the subject of Berlin s analysis There is a view that history and its study should somehow discover the purpose of events and determine the pattern that Providence the capitalisation is intentional has laid down so that we can learn from it Berlin s dissection of this medieval idea is a pleasure to read There may well be patterns in history and no doubt we can learn from the earlier mistakes of our predecessors, but the fact that similar things happen over and over again and we never quite get rid of some forms of bigotry suggests that we don t Order and patterns of events and behaviour are not a necessary part of the universe Sometimes stuff just happens not every event has a purpose and it is not the function of history or historians to reveal the purpose of every occurrence History is not a science and it doesn t follow rules like physics And yes, we can blame Hitler for his actions.Above all, the style and quality of Berlin s writing make this a very difficult book to put down His writing is so clear that his ideas flow easily and his arguments develop naturally A great pleasure. . There are some interesting things in here, but his style is very high flown in a way which gets obnoxious, and he has a tendency to discuss broad ranges of ideas at once, often leading to vague conclusions, blatant misinterpretations of other authors in the service of a narrative, or poetic wanking with no apparent end in sight I didn t find this very informative Why not just read the authors he s talking about rather than his endlessly repetitious monologue about them 3 stars i didn t hate it, and two concepts of liberty is good albeit over simple , but i was disappointed. While reading Four Essays on Liberty not the expanded version , I felt sure I would criticize Berlin s verbosity and repetitiveness But finally I m reminded that an essay is, by definition, an exploration of a subject, not the author s final thoughts There is in these essays a sense of Berlin advancing ideas he is not necessarily totally convinced of And from the introduction, which is a reply to his critics, and several footnotes, it s clear Berlin is eager to receive, ponder and learn from criticism.I still think, however, the book too long for the amount of solid intellectual substance it provides The first three essays center around three basic ideas, respectively 1 The decreasing acknowledgment in the twentieth century of the importance and efficacy of ideas,2 The unexamined determinism of many historians, and3 How leaders of men have misused man s need for positive liberty liberty to do something in the name of a higher nature that must be developed.The is a gross simplification, for many other valuable auxiliary points are developed, but he also spends inordinate swathes of text elaborating theses that were already clear pages before.The best and most succinct essay is the last, John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life, which superbly analyzes the strengths and fallacies of Mill s theory of liberty. .E-PUB ⚇ Liberty: Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty ♗ XIX XX Berlin is one of my favorite political philosophers I think he s absolutely brilliant and very relevant to today s political debates, particularly in the field of bioethics, which is of particular interest to me. . I rate the book a 3 because it is going to be hard for many to get through it The book spends a good deal of time on the philosophical issue of determinism Science at least up to Quantum Mechanics assumed that everything just happened and that WHEN science discovered all the laws of nature including biology, we would discover that everything was fully determined at the point of the Big Bang, including me writing this blog I m not going to go into the arguments for determinism only to agree with Berlin that nobody actually lives as if determinism is a fact As he says on p17 Unless men as held to posess some attribute over and above those which they have in common with other natural objects animals, plants, things wether the difference is itself called natural or not , the moral command not to treat men as animals or things has to rational foundation Much discussion is about positive vs negative liberty Negative liberty is essentially freedom from being the right to be left alone Positive liberty is about how am I governed , with demcracy being one of the main proposals Clearly there is a conflict here if you leave the wolves alone, they will eat the sheep OTOH, if you fully protect and care for the sheep, they become essentially slaves to the system that gives them their freedoms from want, from danger, from responsibility, etc I found the discussion of the youth and young adulthood of John Stuart Mill to be quite interesting I was vaguely aware of it, but Berlin covers it well Mill s father raised him in strict atheism, materialism, reason, and very little of even poetry nothing that Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism considered improper In his early adulthood he felt life was purposeless, his will was paralyzed and he fell into deep despair wishing for death Apparently living in a choiceless, loveless, deterministic universe was not really all that much fun On 338 and 339 Berlin captures the true horror of Marxism, Utilitarianism and the like He starts with the example of the Dostoevsky character Ivan Karamazov rejects the potential to consign one child to torture and death for the happiness of many an easy decision for a true utilitarian As he puts the sense that utterly horrifes us as we think about Facism and Communism is the following what turns us inside out, and what is indescribeable, is the spectacle of one set of persons that so tamper and get at others so that the others do their will without knowing what they are doing and in this lose their status as free human beings, indeed as human beings at all Thoughts of the conversion of citizens into consumers , social media anti tribes, and the modern knee jerk dictates of Political Correctness come to mind It s not a page turner, however it is justifiably a work that is often referenced, and worth the effort to make a bit of a slog.