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Berlin was knighted in 1957, and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1971.
For much of his life he was renowned for his conversational brilliance, his defence of liberalism, his attacks on political extremism and intellectual fanaticism, and his accessible, coruscating writings on the history of ideas.
He concluded that as a philosopher proper he would make no original contributions, and would end his life knowing no more than he did when he began.
He therefore determined to switch to the history of ideas, in which (he believed) originality was less essential, and which would allow him to learn more than he already knew.
One of these was Alexander Herzen, who became a hero, and to whom Berlin would sometimes attribute many of his own beliefs about history, politics and ethics. Despite his opposition to Marxism, Berlin admired and praised Plekhanov both as a man and as a historian of ideas.
The other was the Russian Marxist publicist and historian of philosophy G. It was initially by reading Plekhanov’s writings that Berlin became interested in the naturalistic, empiricist and materialist thinkers of the Enlightenment, as well as their Idealist and historicist critics.
Berlin received the Agnelli, Erasmus and Lippincott Prizes for his work on the history of ideas, and the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defence of civil liberties, as well as numerous honorary degrees. Berlin was early influenced by British Idealism, as expounded by Green, Bosanquet and Bradley, which was then on the wane. By the time he began teaching philosophy he had joined a new generation of rebellious empiricists, some of whom (most notably A. Ayer) embraced the logical positivist doctrines of the Vienna Circle and Wittgenstein’s earlier writings.
While an undergraduate he was converted to the Realism of G. Although Berlin was always sceptical towards logical positivism, its suspicion of metaphysical claims and its preoccupation with the nature and authority of knowledge strongly influenced his early philosophical enquiries.Despite early harassment by the Bolsheviks, the family was permitted to return to Riga with Latvian citizenship in 1920; from there they emigrated, in 1921, to Britain.They lived in and around London; Isaiah attended St Paul’s School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he studied Greats (classical languages, ancient history, and philosophy) and PPE (politics, philosophy and economics). Ayer and Stuart Hampshire, all of whom met (with others) to discuss philosophy in Berlin’s rooms.In his later years he hoped to write a major work on the history of European romanticism, but this hope was disappointed.From 1966 to 1971 he was also a visiting Professor of Humanities at the City University of New York, and he served as President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978.This defence was, characteristically, closely related to his moral beliefs and to his preoccupation with the nature and role of values in human life.