Isaiah Berlin is a towering figure in the world of letters. To the international community of scholars he is best known as the author of Two Concepts of Liberty, yet his career covers many fields in addition to moral and political philosophy: music and literary criticism, historiography, scholarship in the history of ideas, cultural interpretation, translation, teaching, university and arts administration, diplomacy, community work, and broadcasting. This is the first systematic study of Berlin's political ideas to draw on all of his writings, including manuscripts, interviews, and correspondence. Berlin's defence of political liberalism is based on a theory of moral pluralism, a view of human nature, and an interpretation of the historical and cultural development of Western civilization, rather than on abstract arguments about rights. Claude Galipeau brings out the uniqueness and force of this defence while acknowledging, in his discussion of Berlin's Zionism, the tensions and complexities inherent in it.
In all his writings Berlin seeks to understand the intricacies and paradoxes of human behaviour. His political thought offers a compelling justification of liberal institutions in the contemporary world and Claude Galipeau's study will be an invaluable guide to the range and depth of his work.
`One of the virtues of Galipeau's worthy book is that he does not usually attempt to make Berlin more systematic than he is ... Galipeau's book is most useful for the way in which he arranges arguments from different parts of Berlin's writings into topics.'
Times Literary Supplement
`Galipeau painstakingly exposes a thinker well ahead of his time, sensitive and nuanced, who walks a defensible line between the unhelpful excesses of contemporary debate. I also think this line is the best one to follow.'
The Literary Review of Canada
`...fine introduction to Berlin's philosophical pluralism around a common theme. Galipeau aptly captures the conversational style, exceptionally broad range and ebullient enthusiasms of the most engaging raconteur of all contemporary political thinkers.'
`Pleasantly written appreciation of Sir Isaiah Berlin's thought ... interesting - and persuasive - if it is read as an exploration of the relationship between Berlin's very personal and sometimes elusive intellectual point of view and the school of ideological thinking to which he happens to be most sympathetic ... I would encourage anyone interested in Berlin's moral and political thought to read this book.'
Canadian Journal of Political Science
`balanced and scholarly account of Berlin's thought'
John Horton, Keele University, History of Political Thought, Volume XVIII, Issue 1, Spring 1997