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The Roots Of Romanticism [Paperback]

Isaiah Berlin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Sep 2000
The Roots of Romanticism is the long-awaited text of Isaiah Berlin's most celebrated set of lectures, the Mellon Lectures, delivered in Washington in 1965 and heard since by a much wider audience on BBC radio. For Berli, the Romantics set in train a vast, unparalleled revolution in humanity's view of itself. They destroyed the traditional notion of objective truth in ethicsm with incalculable, all-pervasive results. In his unscripted tour de force Berlin surveys the myriad attempts to define romanticism, distils its essence, traces its development, and shows how its legacy permeates our outlook today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (7 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712665447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712665445
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 15.2 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Exhilaratingly thought-provoking" (Iain Finlayson The Times)

"Isaiah Berlin at the height of his glory" (Michael Foot Independent on Sunday)

"In an era where humane intellectual discourse has been deconstructed, intertextualised, phallicised and generally kicked senseless, Berlin's writing shines like a beacon" (Rupert Christiansen Spectator)

"A profound, if often tantalising, contribution to an understanding of the West's culture... This is a book that would be as salutary a read for prime ministers and presidents as for those who see themselves as cultural critics" (Peter Mudford The Times Higher Education Supplement)

Book Description

'These lectures represent Berlin at his best: quick-minded, erudite, witty and profound, and, above all, exciting.' John Banville, Irish Times

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Unlike many of Berlin's other books which are loosely grouped collections of essays, this book remains focused on the central theme of Romanticism. The book is essentially the written version of Berlin's 1965 Mellon lectures and there is a freshness to the pages, which were spoken, rather than written first (My copy came with a CD of the last lecture, which at last enabled me to put a voice to the writer). Berlin points out how Romanticism challenged the jigsaw puzzle concept of knowledge, in which it was assumed that there was an absolute knowledge which could be found, even if there were arguments over the ways and the people who could find it. Against this the Romantics, with their view of the creative will and there refusal to place structure on life tore up this concept and permanently altered modern European thought. In the last lecture Berlin connects Romanticism to what he considers to be examples of its heirs: existentialism and fascism. This is an impressive book, not least because Berlin is able to come up with an identifying theme of Romanticism, no easy task considering the diverse set of writers who have all been classified under its heading. His examination of Romantic writers mainly focuses on Germany, which he considers to have been the centre of Romantic thought. The book is easy to read and due to its source as a set of lectures contains almost no footnotes. While I enjoy almost all Berlin's writings I feel this one, virtually a transcription of lectures, is unlike his other works and while making serious and interesting points has great lightness and pace in its style.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Romanticism, `the largest recent movement to transform the lives and the thought of the Western world', was a reaction to the 18th century Enlightenment view that we could in some way stand apart from the world, analyse it, get to know it, and ultimately control it through logic, mathematics and science. This positivist view held by the philosophes of 18th century France was made to look absurd by the French Revolution and the Lisbon earthquake, events that indicated that all was not after all for the best in the best of all possible worlds, as Leibniz had claimed.

In the Roots of Romanticism, which is a transcript of six lectures delivered in Washington in 1965, Isaiah Berlin traces the roots and fruits of the movement, or way of thinking, which reacted against the positivist view.

The author's scholarship and grasp of his subject is masterful. This is a book that every student of history and philosophy should read. In the space of 118 pages, Isaiah Berlin knits together, in a readable and at times entertaining way, the complicated pattern of views held by the German and British romanticists, and shows the lasting effects of those views.

If the book has one fault it is the fact that Berlin gives so little weight to the influence of Spinoza's philosophy. In Spinoza's single substance view, opponents of the Enlightenment found not merely a set of counter-arguments to the positivist view that the universe could be described in mathematical terms, but a comprehensive system that cohered with reason, logic and all the evidence of common sense and experience.

In Germany, the mechanistic world view was effectively eclipsed by the view first expressed by Spinoza in his Ethics that God and Nature are one and the same thing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Product description 11 Mar 2009
Please note that this edition claims in the product desciption to include a CD. It doesn't. So, I am returning mine. The star rating is irrelevant - I have no complaint about the book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars romanticism unbound 7 Feb 2002
By A Customer
What exactly is romanticism? Berlin shows how difficult it is to answer this question, and you need to read the whole book to find out what his answer is. Along the way he covers the main figures who brought romanticism to life. You will never read a better account of Kant's philosophy of free will, or a better introduction to major romantic figures like Schiller and Byron. His account of romanticism in music is short, but to the point. Did you know that the French revolution pushed romanticism to the forefront of the world of ideas bacause of its failure? Do you know why Walter Scott is a major romantic figure? Do you know how to define romanticism? If not buy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 17 July 2011
I bought this book as a prelude to studying the romantic era of literature in the second year of my degree course and I have to say the book was fascinatingly brilliant! It was great at getting into the prevalent mode of thinking at this time, which in turn has enabled me to understand better the books that are on my reading list. Even to read it just out of historical interest in the development of thought is in itself very engaging and was probably meant to be read in this way. So easy to read also, like having an interesting one sided conversation with an intelligent friend. Highly recommended.
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