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Freedom and Its Betrayal:
The Isaiah Berlin lectures collected in this volume were originally aired on BBC radio in 1952. They appear here in print for the first time, thanks to editor Henry Hardy, who produced these fine essays from BBC transcripts and Berlin's own notes. It is perhaps better to read Berlin than hear him; as Hardy points out in his introduction, the late thinker had the unfortunate habit of speaking rapidly. A contemporary once said he was "the only man who pronounces 'epistemological' as one syllable." Yet they are a joy to have in any form, as Berlin is a clear and crisp communicator of ideas. Political theory is not always the most engaging subject matter, but on these pages Berlin makes it accessible as he probes the legacies of "six thinkers who were hostile to liberty"--namely Helvetus, Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel, Saint-Simon, and Maistre. He doesn't exactly beat around the bush. Rousseau, he writes, "claims to have been the most ardent and passionate lover of human liberty who ever lived." But Berlin's own verdict is quite different: He "was one of the most sinister and most formidable enemies of liberty in the whole history of modern thought." Reading these jarring essays is like listening to a favorite college professor lecture on a topic he knows well. --John Miller [via]