Charles Taylor replies  pp. 213-257


By James Tully and Daniel M. Weinstock

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Introduction

Isaiah Berlin

I was very moved by the kind words of Isaiah Berlin, who has been an inspiring teacher and friend for many decades. In the high-powered but rather arid and parochial philosophical world of Oxford after the war, he opened new windows on the world and history, made us aware of possibilities undreamt of in the standard curriculum. His tremendously wide sympathies, and unparalleled capacities of expression made these come alive for us, even across wide gaps of culture and history. I am greatly in his debt, as are a great many others of my generation, as well as those older and younger than myself.

As he points out, though we share a great deal, we don't see eye to eye. He gives a sketch of some of the differences in a few paragraphs. I'm not sure the gap is as wide as it seems in his description. Or rather, I would say, the differences run very deep metaphysically and theologically; but they narrow somewhat in the practical judgements about our situation in society and history.

Berlin has tirelessly pointed out the irreconcilable conflict that we frequently face between different goods which we cannot help subscribing to. The modern vogue of ethical thinking, which tends to try to derive all our obligations from some single principle, has tended to hide and muffle these conflicts. His reminders have been salutary and important, but too little heeded.

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