In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

Henry Hardy. I.B. Tauris, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-78831-244-8
Hardy gives an informative if highly specialized account of his work with Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997). A famed philosopher and political thinker, Berlin was also notoriously unorganized, with a scattershot publication history. Hardy, a recent graduate from Oxford in the early 1970s when he first met the philosopher, made it his life’s work to organize, catalogue, clarify, and publish Berlin’s prodigious output. He also had the delicate task of cajoling the self-deprecating and indecisive Berlin into making definitive editorial and publication decisions, a tug of war documented in the extensive exchange of letters reproduced here. Hardy is an understated but affectionate (if occasionally self-conscious) narrator, clearly devoted to Berlin but not unaware of the great man’s flaws and idiosyncrasies. The story of their relationship is mostly told through the letters that he and Berlin traded, with the last two chapters devoted to their exchange of philosophical ideas about pluralism, religion, and humanity’s “moral core.” This volume will appeal mostly to specialists already familiar with Berlin, as it is not the best introduction to his work and ideas. Nevertheless, the new perspective on an important intellectual figure is of great value. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018
Release date: 01/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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