Sir Isaiah Berlin Biography
(1909–1997), Historical Inevitability, Two Concepts of Liberty, Four Essays on Liberty
British moral and political philosopher and historian of ideas, born at Riga in Latvia, the son of a timber merchant, educated at St Paul's School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, gaining his MA in 1935. Throughout his career he has lectured at Oxford, and was President of Wolfson College from 1966 to 1975. He has also held numerous visiting professorships in the USA and was President of the British Academy between 1974 and 1978. The critique of determinist philosophies of history in Historical Inevitability (1954) has remained central to his work; Berlin emphasizes the ultimate incompatibility of historical determinism with the free will of the individual. The essentially plural nature of morality was the principal theme of his seminal Two Concepts of Liberty (1959), which was collected with Historical Inevitability and two other works under the title Four Essays on Liberty (1969); the book confirmed his reputation as one of the leading liberal intellectuals of the twentieth century. His other publications include Essays on J. L. Austin (1973), Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (1976), and The Magus of the North: J. G. Hamana and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism (1993). Russian Thinkers (1978), Concepts and Categories (1978), Against the Current (1979), Personal Impressions (1980), and The Crooked Timber of Humanity (1990) are collections of his essays edited by Henry Hardy. Berlin has also produced translations from the Russian, among which are versions of Turgenev's First Love (1950) and A Month in the Country (1981). Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration, edited by Edna and Avishai Margalit, appeared in 1991.