Chapter

Isaiah Berlin 1909–1997

Alan Ryan

in Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 130, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, IV

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263501
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197263501.003.0001

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Isaiah Berlin 1909–1997

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Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997), a Fellow of the British Academy, was an extraordinary obituarist and memorialist. In the 1930s, Berlin was part of a small group of young and iconoclastic philosophers that included John Austin, Stuart Hampshire, and A. J. Ayer. Ayer was an early convert to logical positivism while Austin, Hampshire and Berlin were not. Berlin’s career was first interrupted and then spectacularly accelerated by the outbreak of World War II. The years he spent in Washington brought Berlin into close contact with the makers of American foreign policy and reshaped his sense of what he might do with his life. Even more important were his postwar encounters with Russian poets, novelists, dramatists and other intellectuals in the winter of 1945–1946. During the 1950s, Berlin became an important figure outside academic life in the broader cultural life of Britain. One of his more surprising insights was that the existence of the state of Israel was a necessity for Jews everywhere. He remained a confirmed liberal Zionist and a good friend of Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel.

Keywords: Isaiah Berlin; logical positivism; Britain; Israel; Jews; A. J. Ayer; intellectuals

Chapter.  7768 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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