10 episodes

The Isaiah Berlin Lecture (Annual lecture in the History of Ideas) is held at Wolfson College, Oxford.

The Isaiah Berlin Lecture Oxford University

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The Isaiah Berlin Lecture (Annual lecture in the History of Ideas) is held at Wolfson College, Oxford.

    Isaiah Berlin on Liberty

    Isaiah Berlin on Liberty

    Aileen Kelly, Emerita Reader at King's College, Cambridge, gave the 2018 annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture at Wolfson College, Oxford. The lecture, which was given on November 8th, was introduced by Sir Tim Hitchens. Although for most of his professional lifetime Isaiah Berlin was commonly classified not under his original label as a philosopher but as a historian of ideas, he is now regarded internationally as a philosopher of continuing importance because of his distinctive contributions to our understanding of the philosophical problems associated with liberty and pluralism. The first aim of the lecture is to show how both points of view can be correct at the same time: without the historical understanding he obtained from his study of thinkers in several countries and centuries and how their orientations depended on period and historical context, he would not have had such a substantial base for the philosophical position that he reached. It will then be argued in detail that the most significant of the various influences on his thought came from a direction - Russia in the nineteenth century - that there has been a regrettable recent tendency to ignore, and that the most characteristic representative of that influence on both his pluralism and his attitude to liberty was the publicist, journalist, publisher, author and thinker Alexander Herzen.

    • 55 min
    One Hundred Years of Consciousness ('a long training in absurdity')

    One Hundred Years of Consciousness ('a long training in absurdity')

    Galen Strawson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford deliverd the 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lecture at Wolfson College. The lecture was introduced by the College President, Hermione Lee. There occurred in the twentieth century the most remarkable episode in the whole history of ideas-the whole history of human thought. A number of thinkers denied the existence of something we know with certainty to exist: consciousness, conscious experience. Others held back from the Denial, but claimed that it might be true-a claim no less remarkable than the Denial. It is instructive to document some aspects of this episode, with particular reference to the rise of philosophical behaviourism, and the (connected) rise of a conception of naturalism that transformed the doctrine of materialism from a consciousness affirming-view into a consciousness-denying view. There is then a further task: to try to explain how it is possible that intelligent human beings should come to deny the existence of something that certainly exists.

    • 52 min
    Cosmopolitan Contamination - learning world citizenship

    Cosmopolitan Contamination - learning world citizenship

    Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, delivers the 50th Anniversary Annual Berlin Lecture. Professor Appiah writes "In the talk I want to urge people, whatever places they think of as home, to recognize the ways in which much of what we care about most deeply is profoundly etched with influences from elsewhere. Shakespeare’s leading characters, outside the history plays, are Romans, Danes, Greeks. He learns about them from Roman authors; he absorbs the sonnet, an Italian poetic form. Goethe writes the West-östlicher Divan, inspired by a Persian poet. Some of Grimms’ fairy tales derive from Sanskrit sources.
    “I am writing to you from Italy: can one imagine pasta now without the tomatoes that came from the New World?”
    I want to explore some of these questions in part through thinking about Herder, about whom Isaiah Berlin wrote so persuasively, but also in a more practical way by reflecting on how a cosmopolitan perspective can be encouraged in higher education."

    • 55 min
    Pluralism and Human Rights

    Pluralism and Human Rights

    The 2014 Isaiah Berlin lecture was given by highly respected philosopher and crossbench peer, Baroness Onora O’Neill. The Lecture was introduced by the President of Wolfson College, Dame Hermione Lee. Baroness O’Neill’s lecture addressed a variety of issues surrounding the difficult philosophical subject of human rights: how can we overcome the conflicts between different cultural values and the lexicon of human rights that has now entered the international legal architecture? How can we strike a fair balance between the competing claims of often contradictory rights e.g. how can we balance the right to freedom of expression with the prohibition on racial hatred? She began her lecture by addressing the arguments Sir Isaiah Berlin had put forwards regarding the value conflicts that plaque the world; he held that the incompatibility of some values are at the base of all social disputes. Baroness O’Neill spoke fondly about her memories of Sir Isaiah, including meeting him when she was 15, and her father and his strong friendship when they were both studying at All Souls College. Addressing the issue of the defence of human rights against detractors, she rejected the positivist argument, which holds that because rights are ratified by a large number of states they must be held as binding to all. She acknowledged the historical circumstances that led to the creation of the Conventions, including addressing the charges of Western imperialism, but maintained that rights are moral and fundamental. Human rights, Baroness O’Neill argued, fall within the domain of ‘practical reasoning’. Unlike aesthetic rights, it would be possible to construct a set of rules and restraints that address all possible conflicts between plural human rights and would set out a realistic system that all humans would be protected by. She acknowledged the magnitude of this task, but suggested that it was the only method that would lead to success.
    The College President, Professor Dame Hermione Lee, introduced Baroness O’Neill, praising her continuing acts of public service and holding her up as a model for all professional women. The President dedicated this year’s lecture to the memory of Dr Michael Brock, the first bursar and first and only Vice-president of Wolfson College, who died at the end of April. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 47 min
    Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism Part 1

    Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism Part 1

    Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford gave a lecture entitled 'Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism'.

    • 36 min
    Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism Part 2

    Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism Part 2

    Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford gave a lecture entitled 'Isaiah Berlin and the Challenge of Multiculturalism'.

    • 24 min

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