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For Human Governance. A Memory of Isaiah Berlin

Anno XXXIII, n. 143, gennaio-febbraio 1998
Centro Einaudi


Testo disponibile solo in lingua inglese.
This essay recapitulates the salient features of the thinking and intellectual activity of the great liberal political philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who died recently. Berlin’s conception of liberty – hence his conception of politics – derived from the history of ideas and his own personal interpretation of the western intellectual tradition. His conclusion was that the values men believe in and on the basis of which they act may clash and come into conflict. Not that the position Berlin derives from his awareness is a relativist one. On the contrary, his refutation of consolatory perspectives – i.e., the idea that the history of men follows a defined course, maybe not in terms of its specific stages but certainly of its final point of arrival – and of Utopias – which broaden the horizons of the imagination but, when they assume a guiding role in political action, tend to have fatal outcomes – leads him to rely on the limited, but reassuring hopes of human governance of things and facts and a civilising of the form of politics which is most satisfactory for mankind in the long run.