Isaiah Berlin

(Sir Isaiah Berlin)

Quote Topics Cited
A great man is one who deliberately causes something important to a happen, the probability of which seemed low before he took up the task. A great man is a man who gives history a turn which it could scarcely have taken without him. They give history a twist which nobody would have predicted. Great men leave permanent effects. Leaders & Leadership
A scientifically trained observer can of course always analyze a particular social abuse, or suggest a particular remedy. but he can do little, as a scientist, to predict what general effects the application of a given remedy or the elimination of a given source of misery or injustice is going to have on other—especially on remote—parts of our total social system. Policy & Policy Making ;Social Sciences
Any study of a society shows that every solution creates a new situation which breeds its own new needs and problems, new demands. Policy & Policy Making
I have no idea how one stops one group, one race, from hating another. The hatred between human groups has never been cured, except by time. Discrimination & Prejudice
If you have maximum liberty then the strong can destroy the weak, and if you have absolute equality, you cannot have absolute liberty …. Total liberty can be dreadful, total equality can be equally frightful. Equality & Equal Opportunity
Most of the suspicion of intellectuals in politics springs from the belief, not entirely false, that, owing to a strong desire to see life in some simple, symmetrical fashion, they put too much faith in the beneficent results of applying directly to life conclusions obtained by operations in some theoretical sphere. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Nationalism springs, as often as not, from a wounded or outraged sense of human dignity, the desire for recognition. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The largest human being of our time. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
To make mankind just and happy and creative and harmonious forever—what would be too high a price to pay for that? To make such an omelette, there is surely no limit to the number of eggs that should be broken—that was the faith of Lenin, of Trotsky, of Mao… of Pol Pot…. You declare that a given policy will make you happier, or freer or give you room to breathe: but I know you are mistaken. I know what you need, what all men need; and if there is resistance based on ignorance or malevolence, then it must be broken and hundreds of thousands may have to perish to make millions happy for all time. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
We begin by trying to alter what we can see, but the tremors which our action starts sometimes run through the entire depth our society; levels to which we pay no conscious attention are stirred, and all kinds of unintended results ensue. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
When a man speaks of the need for realism one may be sure that this is always the prelude to some bloody deed. Diplomacy & Diplomats
All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate.
Few new truths have ever won their way against the resistance of established ideas save by being overstated.
Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance - these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.
Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs. Death
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.
Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions.
The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds.
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. Freedom & Liberty
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.
To understand is to perceive patterns.