Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Political Philosophy

How did Isaiah Berlin oppose Marxist historicism?

Berlin did not think that impersonal or absolute forces could determine history, apart from the free will of “exceptional individuals.” He wrote in “Does Political Theory Still Exist?”:

It is seldom … that there is only one model that determines our thought; men (or cultures) obsessed at their models are rare, and while they may be more coherent at their strongest, they tend to collapse more violently when, in the end, their concepts are blown up by reality.

By the same token, Berlin was not enthusiastic about harmony or agreement in political life. He believed that well-intentioned individuals could hold opposing values, resulting in inevitable moral conflict: “These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are.”


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