Over 4000 free audio and video lectures, seminars and teaching resources from Oxford University.
Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin(1909-1997) was one of the most celebrated thinkers of the twentieth century. His defence of freedom and diversity against control and uniformity is widely endorsed. His distinction between the monist hedgehog and the pluralist fox, and his celebration of 'the crooked timber of humanity', have entered the vocabulary of modern culture, together with his hugely influential elaboration of the concepts of 'positive' and 'negative' political liberty. A consummate essayist and letter-writer, he was famous for his virtuosity as a lecturer and talker. His distinctive deep, rapid voice was often heard on the radio, and he led many to explore his chosen subject - the history of ideas. He founded Oxford's largest graduate college, Wolfson, which expresses his generous, unhidebound personality to this day.

Series featuring Isaiah Berlin

  • Isaiah Berlin Centenary
# Episode Title Description People Date
1 The Origins of Cultural History 1; Two Notions of the History of Culture: the German Versus the French Tradition Isaiah Berlin gives the first of his lectures on The Origins of Cultural History on February 19th 1973. Isaiah Berlin 31 Jul 2013
2 The Origins of Cultural History 2; Geisteswissenschaft and the Natural Sciences: Vico versus Descartes Isaiah Berlin gives the second of his lectures on the origins of cultural history. Isaiah Berlin 31 Jul 2013
3 The Origins of Cultural History 3; The Origins of the Conflict: Political Lawyers, Classical Scholars, Narrative Historians Isaiah Berlin gives the third and final lecture on the origins of cultural history. Isaiah Berlin 31 Jul 2013
4 Two Enemies of Enlightenment: 2; Joseph de Maistre Isaiah Berlin gives a lecture on Joseph de Maistre on October 27th 1965. Isaiah Berlin 31 Jul 2013
5 Two Enemies of Enlightenment: 1; J G Hamann Isaiah Berlin gives a lecture on J G Hamann on October 26th 1965. Isaiah Berlin 31 Jul 2013
6 From Communism to Zionism: Moses Hess (1957) 1957 Lucien Wolf Memorial Lecture. Lecture on the Jewish philosopher Moses Hess, one of the founders of Zionism and a committed Socialist. Berlin also discusses Hess’s evolution as a philosopher, from International Socialism to Zionism. Isaiah Berlin 15 Apr 2009
7 A Fire at Sea (1957) Isaiah Berlin introduces and reads his translation of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev's short story, 'A Fire at Sea' in which Turgenev recounts an embarrassing episode from his youth. Originally broadcast by the BBC's Third Programme in 1957. Isaiah Berlin 15 Apr 2009
8 Alexander Herzen: His Opinions and Character (1955) Lecture on Alexander Herzen, philosopher and founder of Russia’s first free press. He discusses Herzen’s passionate belief in individual liberty and his distaste for the new violent radicalism in Russia in his time. Isaiah Berlin 15 Apr 2009
9 Freedom and its Betrayal: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1952) Berlin lectures on Rousseau's The Social Contract and discusses Rousseau's anti-intellectualism, his idealism of Nature, and the worryingly authoritarian implications of his philosophy. Originally broadcast for the BBC's Third Programme in 1952. Isaiah Berlin 14 Apr 2009