Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Isaiah Berlin On Utopianism

In his essay, “The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will,” (The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas; By Isaiah Berlin; Page 219 - 252), Isaiah Berlin sounds a warning against the moral and political cost of utopianism. Here’s a paragraph from the essay in which Berlin equates utopianism with totalitarianism:

“All the utopias known to us are based upon the discoverability and harmony of objectively true ends, true for all men, at all times and places. This holds of every ideal city, from Plato’s Republic and his Laws, and Zeno’s anarchist world community, and the City of the Sun of Iambulus, to the Utopias of Thomas More and Campanella, Bacon and Harrington and Fenelon. The communist societies of Mably and Morelly, the state capitalism of Saint-Simon, the Phalansteres of Fourier, the various combinations of anarchism and collectivism of Owen and Godwin, Cabet, William Morris and Chemyshevsky, Bellamy, Hertzka and others (there is no lack of them in the nineteenth century) rest on the three pillars of social optimism in the west of which I have spoken: that the central problems — the massimi problemi — of men are, in the end, the same throughout history; that they are in principle soluble; and that the solutions form a harmonious whole.”

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