Sir Isaiah Berlin was one of the most prominent philosophers and political theorists of the 20th century.

He was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909, and his family soon moved to England, where Berlin attended St Paul’s School and then Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

He began his career as a philosopher and historian of ideas at Oxford, but he also had a keen interest in politics, and he worked for the British Foreign Office during World War II.

After the war, he returned to Oxford, where he became a professor of social and political theory.

He was also an influential writer and thinker, and his books and essays were widely read and discussed.

Berlin was known for his thinking on liberalism, pluralism, and Russian history and culture.

He received numerous awards and honors during his lifetime, including the prestigious Jerusalem Prize in 1986. Isaiah Berlin died in 1997.

You will find below a curated collection of the best ‘Isaiah Berlin’ quotes that you can read and share with others.


Best Isaiah Berlin Quotes

Utopias have their value – nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potentialities – but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

I am not a very political thinker. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

All central beliefs on human matters spring from a personal predicament. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The only thing which can be regarded as properly tragic is resistance, resistance on the part of a man to whatever it is that oppresses him. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The very desire for guarantees that our values are eternal and secure in some objective heaven is perhaps only a craving for the certainties of childhood or the absolute values of our primitive past. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others. The rest is extension of this sense, or else metaphor. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

No perfect solution is, not merely in practice, but in principle, possible in human affairs, and any determined attempt to produce it is likely to lead to suffering, disillusionment and failure. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Those who have ever valued liberty for its own sake believed that to be free to choose, and not to be chosen for, is an unalienable ingredient in what makes human beings human. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Famous Isaiah Berlin Quotes

Sir Isaiah Berlin OM CBE FBA studied different ideas and concepts. He used analogies and examples to help explain his points, which made it easier for people to understand him.

Nothing is more comforting than the weaknesses of persons obviously superior to oneself. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

But to manipulate men, to propel them toward goals which you-the social reformers-see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

A hedgehog will not make peace with the world. He is not reconciled. He cannot accept that he knows only many things. He seeks to know one big thing, and strives without ceasing to give reality a unifying shape. Foxes settle for what they know and may live happy lives. Hedgehogs will not settle and their lives may not be happy. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Of course, like all over-simple classifications of this type, the dichotomy becomes, if pressed, artificial, scholastic and ultimately absurd. But if it is not an aid to serious criticism, neither should it be rejected as being merely superficial or frivolous: like all distinctions which embody any degree of truth, it offers a point of view from which to look and compare, a starting-point for genuine investigation. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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One cannot safely live in a house with a red-haired bluestocking. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The history of society is the history of the inventive labors that man alter man, alter his desires, habits, outlook, relationships both to other men and to physical nature, with which man is in perpetual physical and technological metabolism. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The underlying assumption that human nature is basically the same at all times, everywhere, and obeys eternal laws beyond human control, is a conception that only a handful of bold thinkers have dared to question. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The case against the notion of historical objectivity is like the case against international law, or international morality; that it does not exist. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

London is heaven, but Oxford seventh heaven. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Top Isaiah Berlin Quotes

To preserve our absolute categories or ideals at the expense of human lives offends equally against the principles of science and of history; it is an attitude found in equal measure on the right and left wings in our days, and is not reconcilable with the principles accepted by those who respect the facts. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Science cannot destroy the consciousness of freedom, without which there is no morality and no art, but it can refute it. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Genius means the power of rendering paradoxes as platitudes. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

History alone – the sum of empirically discoverable data – held the key to the mystery of why what happened happened as it did and not otherwise; and only history, consequently, could throw light on the fundamental ethical problems which obsessed him as they did every Russian thinker in the nineteenth century. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail irreparable loss. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

I only feel happy when I feel the solidarity of the majority of people I respect with & behind me. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The desire not to be impinged upon, to be left to oneself, has been the mark of high civilisation both on the part of individuals and communities. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

True knowledge is knowledge of why things are as they are, and not merely what they are. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Popular Isaiah Berlin Quotes

Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

There is no prior reason for supposing that the truth, when it is discovered, will necessarily prove interesting. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Both liberty and equality are among the primary goals pursued by human beings throughout many centuries; but total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs, total liberty of the powerful, the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and the less gifted. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing completely straight was ever made. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Romanticism embodied a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Life may be seen through many windows, none of them necessarily clear or opaque, less or more distorting than any of the others. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Insightful Isaiah Berlin Quotes

Few new truths have ever won their way against the resistance of established ideas save by being overstated. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

I have always been prone to coloured descriptions of unimportant phenomena. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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If ever I marry I shall certainly choose an Irish woman. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

When one is engaged in a desperate defense of one’s world and its values, nothing can be given away, any breach in the walls might be fatal, every point must be defended to the death. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

That objective truth exists, that it can be discovered, and that life, individual and social, can be lived in its light – this belief is more characteristic of the Russians than of anyone else in the modern world. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

I can see how, with enough false education, enough widespread illusion and error, men can, while remaining men, believe this and commit the most unspeakable crimes. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

I am beginning to think I should like to create an institution. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

When a man speaks of the need for realism one may be sure that this is always the prelude to some bloody deed. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The intellectual power, honesty, lucidity, courage, and disinterested love of the truth of the most gifted thinkers of the eighteenth century remain to this day without parallel. Their age is one of the best and most hopeful episodes in the life of mankind. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

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Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep. ~ Isaiah Berlin.

The world that we encounter in ordinary experience is one in which we are faced by choices equally absolute, the realisation of some of which must inevitably mean the sacrifice of others. ~ Isaiah Berlin.



So these were the 50 famous quotes about Isaiah Berlin.

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