Moderation or Death
A polished life of the century's preeminent liberal in the classic sense philosopher. Just as Berlin's critics complained he never wrote a single-volume magnum opus but only essays, Berlin's friends He also spent hours talking to Berlin's wife Michael Ignatieff, born in Toronto in But at the age of 11, Ignatieff was sent to Toronto to attend Upper Canada College as a boarder in At UCC, Ignatieff was elected a school prefect as Head of Wedd's House, was the captain of the varsity soccer team, and served as editor-in-chief of the school's yearbook.
As well, Ignatieff volunteered for the Liberal Party during the federal election by canvassing the York South riding.
He resumed his work for the Liberal Party in , as a national youth organizer and party delegate for the Pierre Elliott Trudeau party leadership campaign. He then went on to continue his education at the University of Toronto and Harvard and Cambridge universities. In , Ignatieff completed his Ph. D in History at Harvard University. He was granted a Cambridge M. Michael Ignatieff has written television programs for the BBC, novels, and works of nonfiction. He has also authored essays and reviews for several publications including The New York Times.
Only in such an enclosure as civil unification offers can our inclinations achieve their best effects; as trees in a wood which seek to deprive each other of air and sunlight are forced to strive upwards and so achieve a beautiful straight growth; while those that spread their branches at will in isolated freedom grow stunted, tilted and crooked.
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Kant is explicitly saying the opposite to what he supposes. Then again, having found the rationalism of the Enlightenment to be forbidding and authoritarian, he invested his hopes in a Romantic movement that could hardly claim to be immune from visionary and unsettling temptations. How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
Isaiah Berlin: A Life - Michael Ignatieff - كتب Google
Still to ourselves in every place consigned Our own felicity we make or find. Despite his great and confident presence on the podium — which we know always put him into an anticipatory state of nerves until the end of his days — and despite his legendary performances in the salon and at table, Berlin was uncertain of his welcome, unsure of himself and, possibly, uneasy about the uncritical admiration he received from some acolytes.
Ignatieff makes it abundantly plain that Jewishness lay at the bottom of this unease. Using much new material this time, he also demonstrates that Berlin suffered much private anxiety over Zionism. Though he felt that his adopted England was uniquely tolerant of the Jewish presence, he never allowed himself quite to relax. And, though he thought that a Jewish national home in Palestine was a necessary and even a good thing, he was acutely aware that it was as much a project of the positive — the interventionist — as of the negative, or the right to be let alone.
Two instances illustrate this to perfection, and both involve his friend and ally Lewis Namier. In the Salmagundi interview, Berlin said of the problem of assimilation:. Sir Lewis Namier explained this extremely clearly. He said that Eastern European Judaism was a frozen mass until the rays of the Western Enlightenment began to beat on it. Then some of it remained frozen, some evaporated — that meant assimilation and drifting — and some melted into powerful streams: one was socialism and the other Zionism.
Score one for the poor old Enlightenment, at least: it emancipated Jews not just from legally imposed disabilities but from the control of their own stasis-oriented clerical authorities. Then there is the single story which Berlin was most fond of relating. There was one academic setting in which they were always sure of a hearing. In the Ignatieff version of this much-repeated anecdote:. He remembered one particularly clumsy member of the German aristocracy who, in the common room of All Souls, happened to say that he thought German territorial demands in Europe were as reasonable as British imperial claims overseas.
This remark, delivered into the stillness of the common room, was suddenly interrupted by a guttural growl from a man whom Isaiah had never seen before, seated in one of the window recesses. One sees at once the utility as well as the beauty of such a piece of raconteurship. It leaves the fish-faced outsider gasping for air. It is an instance of a good return of serve, delivered across a celebrated common room.
And it shows how even Galicians can become, if you like, Englishmen.
And Arthur Balfour, author of a famous Declaration on the subject of Palestine, had been the British politician most opposed to Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. Berlin never alludes to this as far as I know, but he must have been aware of it. Furthermore, whether or not the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was to be mainly dependent on British imperial goodwill, what were its founding principles to be? But, if Jews were to demand, in that same land, not the equal rights that they demanded in America or Europe, but special and transcendent proprietorial rights, how could this claim be founded?
It could only be founded on a the claims of revealed and prophetic religion or b the claims of an unbreakable tie of blood, and of that blood to that soil. Yet what could be less agreeable, to Berlin, than language or argument that originated from those ancient and superstitious sources? An immediate answer to this conundrum of atavism was supplied, for Berlin and for many others, by the homicidal atavism of Christian and conservative Europe, which became infected with the madness of Fascism and thus made Palestine a question of safety for Jews.
Yet Berlin, again to his credit, did not allow this consideration to silence all of his misgivings. Visiting Mandate Palestine in , he found the perfect English assimilationist metaphor to describe the conflict of rights. In one way, this illustrates a talent for stereotype. In another, it shows his gift for imagining the workings of other, opposed minds. Leaving Palestine by sea:. When they got talking, Isaiah asked him what Stern thought of the recent British move to create a legislative council in Palestine.
We shall fight that, Stern said. Because it would give the Arabs representation in proportion to their demographic superiority.
But, Isaiah countered, the council was merely advisory. It does not matter, Stern replied. We shall fight and fight, and if blood has to be shed Stern, and his distinctly less aesthetic deputy Yitzhak Shamir, went on to offer military and political collaboration to Hitler in the battle to expel the British and to make a manly, even skull-breaking nation out of the Jews. For as long as seemed feasible, he took the part of those Jews who favoured a bi-national state.
By the standard of mild and tolerant Jewish idealists, though, he justified a fair bit of ethnic cleansing on precisely that ground. I know that Berlin once complained earnestly to the editor of the TLS about a fairly neutral review of a collection on Palestine edited by Edward Said and myself. And there were many comparable instances. He even once told Susan Sontag that he had caught himself thinking of Israel as the old fellow-travellers thought of the Soviet Union.
In the context, or any context, a more than startling admission. He kept his admonitions, and his reservations, extremely private until the very last possible moment when, on the verge of death, he dictated a statement critical of Netanyahu and in favour of a utilitarian two-state partition.
In Memory of Isaiah Berlin
Coming well after the Oslo Agreement, and stressing Muslim holy places in Jerusalem rather than the actual Arab inhabitants of many denominations, it was little more than a coda to the loveless Arafat-Netanyahu embrace. The request arrived as the old man was being taken to hospital in his last crisis. So his signal to go ahead and publish was his very last act on earth.
Neither appeal was very muscular or particularly bold. However, the making or signing of public appeals had never been his practice. A friend speculates that he avoided signing letters to the Times because his name began with B.
2. Philosophy of Knowledge and the Human Sciences
So at the very end, Berlin seemed to believe that he had an unredeemed debt to the friends on the left whom he had so often disappointed. Berlin claims that in , while lecturing at Columbia during the campus rebellion:. He gave a lecture so close to the police lines that his friends told him to wet a handkerchief to place over his mouth and eyes in case teargas canisters were fired in his vicinity.
His Marxist graduate students Bert Ollmann and Marshall Berman attended the lecture, ready to defend him against hecklers and if necessary against physical attack. It was not an auspicious time to be a liberal philosopher.
Had Berlin been menaced with martyrdom in the manner that he fondly invents, and Ignatieff fondly sets down, it would not, really, have been for his liberalism. One begins to see how myths are made. He spoke with great brio about the startling proposition that European Jews — the luftmensch — could only be made healthy and whole by becoming farmers and peasants in the Levant.
This, he said, both detached the Jews from their historic occupations and made it inevitable because the land to be tilled had to come from somewhere, or rather from somebody that there would be a confrontation with dispossessed Arabs. To take educated and musical Latvian Jews and put hoes in their hands? Does this not mean that the shtetl and the ghetto, and sooner or later the magical rabbi, will be back?
The following year, he became involved in a difficult correspondence with T. Other considerations apart, how did this observe a distinction between race and religion? To this sectarian arrogance Berlin did not respond, at least not in public.