Latest Issue

Good-bye to Berlin

Isaiah Berlin did not resolve the dilemmas of modern liberalism. But he saw them more clearly than anyone else

By AC Grayling   December 1997

Isaiah Berlin’s intellectual legacy is to be found in his life-long argument with the Enlightenment. He applauded the desire of Enlightenment thinkers to stamp out ignorance and superstition, serving-as they do-to sustain cruel and unjust social arrangements. But Berlin warned against the methods they advocated, which in our own century have taken the harshest forms-rationality applied like a cold bare steel to the warm stuff of human sensibility. In particular he argued that the Enlightenment emphasis on reason as sovereign in human affairs was misplaced; not because reason is an unworthy god-far from it-but because it oversimplifies when complexity and…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect