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Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment$
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Laurence Brockliss and Ritchie Robertson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198783930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783930.001.0001

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Sympathy and Empathy

Sympathy and Empathy

Isaiah’s Dilemma, or How He Let the Enlightenment Down

Chapter:
(p.113) 8 Sympathy and Empathy
Source:
Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment
Author(s):

T. J. Reed

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783930.003.0009

Isaiah Berlin often declared his sympathy for the Enlightenment, but never expressed it without criticisms of the over-generalized kind typical of the Enlightenment’s avowed assailants. In contrast, he entered with empathy and the full force of his rhetoric into what he called the Counter-Enlightenment. Kant, for instance, scarcely figures as the enlightening force he was in every area of philosophy. He is left out entirely from an Enlightenment anthology, and is positively present only in a single favourite quotation (‘the crooked timber of humanity’), which is then misrepresented. This disproportion, and the frequency with which it was embodied in essay after essay, left a negative view of the Enlightenment standing by default. Not only was this a highly dubious version of intellectual history, but the over-fastidious ‘taking for granted’ of the ideas with which Isaiah ultimately sided was a significant loss to the liberal cause.

Keywords:   Kant, sympathy, empathy, Hamann, Russian Revolution

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