Quotes by Isaiah Berlin

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The intellectual power, honesty, lucidity, courage, and disinterested love of the truth of the most gifted thinkers of the eighteenth century remain to this day without parallel. Their age is one of the best and most hopeful episodes in the life of mankind. more...

One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the alter of the great historical ideas - justice or progress or happiness of future generations... or emancipation of a nation or race or class... this is the belief that somewhere... there is a final solution. more...

Both liberty and equality are among the primary goals pursued by human beings throughout many centuries; but total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs, total liberty of the powerful, the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and the less gifted. more...

The history of society is the history of the inventive labors that man alter man, alter his desires, habits, outlook, relationships both to other men and to physical nature, with which man is in perpetual physical and technological metabolism. more...

We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail irreparable loss. more...

Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance - these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible. more...

Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs. more...

The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others. The rest is extension of this sense, or else metaphor. more...

Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions. more...

To understand is to perceive patterns. more...

Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not. more...

The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds. more...

All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate. more...

Few new truths have ever won their way against the resistance of established ideas save by being overstated. more...

The very desire for guarantees that our values are eternal and secure in some objective heaven is perhaps only a craving for the certainties of childhood or the absolute values of our primitive past. more...

The notion of the perfect whole, the ultimate solution in which all good things coexist, seems to me not merely unobtainable-that is a truism-but conceptually incoherent. ......Some among the great goods cannot live together. That is a conceptual truth. We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss. more...

Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker. more...

Conformities are called for much more eagerly today than yesterday... skeptics, liberals, individuals with a taste for private life and their own inner standards of behavior, are objects of fear and derision and targets of persecution for either side... in the great ideological wars of our time. more...

If, as I believe, the ends of men are many, and not all of them are in principle compatible with each other, then the possibility of conflict-and of tragedy-can never wholly be eliminated from human life, either personal or social. The necessity of choosing between absolute claims is then an inescapable characteristic of the human condition. This gives its value to freedom as Acton conceived of it-as an end in itself, and not as a temporary need, arising out of our confused notions and irrational and disordered lives, a predicament which a panacea could one day put right more...

Those who have ever valued liberty for its own sake believed that to be free to choose, and not to be chosen for, is an unalienable ingredient in what makes human beings human. more...

But to manipulate men, to propel them toward goals which you-the social reformers-see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them. more...

Life may be seen through many windows, none of them necessarily clear or opaque, less or more distorting than any of the others. more...

When a man speaks of the need for realism one may be sure that this is always the prelude to some bloody deed. more...

Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing completely straight was ever made more...

Science cannot destroy the consciousness of freedom, without which there is no morality and no art, but it can refute it. more...

All central beliefs on human matters spring from a personal predicament. more...

The underlying assumption that human nature is basically the same at all times, everywhere, and obeys eternal laws beyond human control, is a conception that only a handful of bold thinkers have dared to question. more...

Utopias have their value - nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potentialities - but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal. more...

True knowledge is knowledge of why things are as they are, and not merely what they are. more...

Liberty and equality, spontaneity and security, happiness and knowledge, mercy and justice - all these are ultimate human values, sought for themselves alone; yet when they are incompatible, they cannot all be attained, choices must be made, sometimes tragic losses accepted in the pursuit of some preferred ultimate end. more...

One must look at what impiety hates, what puts it in a rage, what it attacks always, everywhere, and with fury - that will be the truth. more...

When one is engaged in a desperate defense of one's world and its values, nothing can be given away, any breach in the walls might be fatal, every point must be defended to the death. more...

I wish my life and decisions to depend upon myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not other men's, acts of will. I wish to be the subject, not an object...I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer - deciding, not being decided for, slef-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realizing them. more...

Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience. more...

The desire not to be impinged upon, to be left to oneself, has been the markof high civilisation both on the part of individuals and communities. more...

No perfect solution is, not merely in practice, but in principle, possible in human affairs, and any determined attempt to produce it is likely to lead to suffering, disillusionment and failure. more...

The most passionate, consistent, extreme and implacable enemy of the Enlightenment and ... all forms of rationalism ... was Johann Georg Hamann. His influence, direct and indirect, upon the romantic revolt against universalism and scientific method ... was considerable and perhaps crucial. more...

Everyone knows what made Berkeley notorious. He said that there were no material objects. He said the external world was in some sense immaterial, that nothing existed save ideas - ideas and their authors. His contemporaries thought him very ingenious and a little mad. more...

What is Life? more...

Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience. more...

But to manipulate men, to propel them towards goals which you - the social reformer - see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them. more...

Those who have ever valued liberty for its own sake believed that to be free to choose, and not to be chosen for, is an inalienable ingredient in what makes human beings human. more...

Few things have done more harm than the belief on the part of individuals or groups (or tribes or states or nations or churches) that he or she or they are in sole possession of the truth: especially about how to live, what to be and do - and that those who differ from them are not merely mistaken, but wicked or mad: and need restraining or suppressing. more...

There is no a prior reason for supposing that the truth, when it is discovered, will necessarily prove interesting. more...

The trouble with academics and commentators is that they care more about whether ideas are interesting than whether they are true. more...

There exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision... and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory.... The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes. more...

Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep. more...

The case against the notion of historical objectivity is like the case against international law, or international morality; that it does not exist. more...


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