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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable set of Berlin's lectures on Romanticism, 21 Nov 2001
By 
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every student of art, literature and philosophy, 30 Mar 2008
By 
Charles Gidley Wheeler (Kempsford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Roots Of Romanticism (Paperback)
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. Herder, Hegel, Goethe, Schlegel, Fichte, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, Schelling, Novalis, Nietzsche--all these and many more admitted the influence of Spinoza on their thought, and reflected his monism in their works. Their influence continues to be felt to this day in the works of 20th century European philosophers, notably those of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Gadamer.

Hegel said Spinoza was the central point of modern philosophy: "either Spinoza or no philosophy." In The World as Will and Representation Schopenhauer acknowledged the influence of Spinoza, and in his Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy he pays homage to Spinoza as beginning "an entirely new epoch of free investigation, independent of all theological teaching."

Novalis, who referred to Spinoza as a "God-intoxicated man" said that "the true philosophy is realistic idealism--or Spinozism." Schelling admitted that "no one can hope to progress to the true and complete philosophy without having at least once in his life sunk himself in the abyss of Spinozism." And Goethe asserted: "Spinoza does not prove the existence of God; existence is God."

In 1798, Schlegel, who held that modern philosophy began with Spinoza, wrote excitedly to Novalis suggesting the establishment of a new religion based on the philosophy of infinite substance as God-or-Nature. In his letter he is confident that such a religion will have the backing of Schleiermacher, Goethe, Fichte and Schelling.

The pantheistic view was not limited to philosophers, artists and mystics. By the late eighteenth century the notion that the universe was a single plenum in which force and matter were intimately linked was taking hold among physicists. The Danish physicist Hans Oersted (1777-1851) declares in The Soul in Nature that Spirit and Nature are one, viewed under two different aspects. "This system [...] is a part of a more distant and higher system, an eternal whole created in infinite space, which embraces all the ideas realized in existence. [...] The complete idea is expressed in the totality of things. [...] Each individual is thus a particular realization of the fundamental Idea of Being."

In spite of this omission, The Roots of Romanticism is an outstanding work of scholarship. If you are at all interested in the arts or philosophy, you must have a copy of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Product description, 11 Mar 2009
By 
This review is from: The Roots Of Romanticism (Paperback)
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
This review is from: The Roots Of Romanticism (Paperback)
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
By 
Ms. I. Benson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roots Of Romanticism (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, passionate and lively, 1 July 2014
By 
Scampo "Steve C" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roots Of Romanticism (Paperback)
I bought this as I'm half-way through reading 'The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters' by Anthony Pagden and, whilst reading reviews on that truly excellent new book, I found several references this work by Isaiah Berlin. It's a transcription (very well edited) of a series of Berlin's lectures and, as such, it has a lively quality that exudes Berlin's passion and knowledge. He provides very useful insights into the roots of the Romantic period in ways I haven't read before. Highly recommended.
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The Roots Of Romanticism
The Roots Of Romanticism by Isaiah Berlin (Paperback - 7 Sep 2000)
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