Isaiah Berlin Quotes


The trouble with academics and commentators is that they care more about whether ideas are interesting than whether they are true.

One must look at what impiety hates what puts it in a rage what it attacks always everywhere and with fury - that will be the truth.

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

Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions.

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

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

The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

The desire not to be impinged upon to be left to oneself has been the markof high civilisation both on the part of individuals and communities.

Out of the crooked timber of humanity nothing completely straight was ever made

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.

There is no a prior reason for supposing that the truth when it is discovered will necessarily prove interesting.

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

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.

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

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

Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.

Liberty is liberty not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience.

Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.

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

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.

Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

To understand is to perceive patterns.

True knowledge is knowledge of why things are as they are and not merely what they are.