The Roots of Romanticism – Lecture Series and Book – by Isaiah Berlin – (Lectures Linked)

The Roots of Romanticism
by Isaiah Berlin

Philosophy Overdose

This is the first of six lectures given by Isaiah Berlin on Romanticism. In these lectures, delivered at Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art in 1965, acclaimed historian of philosophy Isaiah Berlin addresses the origins of what he deems “the greatest single shift in the consciousness of the West that has occurred.” His focus, apart from some digressions into Montesquieu, Hume, and Rousseau, is on the German philosophers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and he runs through the contributions of Herder, Kant, Schiller, Fichte, Schlegel, and others in turn. He also shows how romanticism would later influence both the existentialists and the fascists, but paradoxically have its greatest influence upon the emergence of a liberalism that seems at complete odds with the romantic sensibility.

For Berlin, the Romantics set in motion a vast, unparalleled revolution in humanity’s view of itself. They destroyed the traditional notions of objective truth and validity in ethics with incalculable, all-pervasive results. In his unscripted tour de force Berlin surveys the myriad attempts to define romanticism, distills its essence, traces its development, and shows how its legacy permeates our outlook today. Combining the freshness and immediacy of the spoken word with Berlin’s inimitable eloquence and wit, the lectures range over a cast of the greatest thinkers and artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Kant, Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Schlegel, Novalis, Goethe, Blake, Byron, and Beethoven. Berlin argues that the ideas and attitudes held by these and other figures helped to shape twentieth-century nationalism, existentialism, democracy, totalitarianism, and our ideas about heroic individuals, individual self-fulfillment, and the exalted place of art. This is the record of an intellectual bravura performance–of one of the century’s most influential philosophers dissecting and assessing a movement that changed the course of history.

Audio from the Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library:

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