Can philosophy shoulder the burdens of the world?

Yes, ideas shape the world!

Kofi Annan

How to understand the world?To understand the world,you have to have a philosophy! No philosophy,no world!Yes,as simple as that! But it took 2,000 or more years to reach that conclusion!

How to judge the present  situation of the world?  Optimistic? Or, pessimistic?  What hopes for a more tolerant world,more enlightened and less respressive regimes across the nations and conteinents?There are tensions in large parts of the world.The Iraq war,the Israeli war-like events,the daily reports of deaths reported from the wars and terrotist attacks cant make any sensitive person but get disturbed.These are the thoughts and occasions when you turn to some more fundamental quest.That is where philosophy comes in.

The role of philosophy Philosophy and philosophers! Today, there are no big ideologies, neo- conservatism(an American construct) or a neo-libera(again another American jargon of a more deriding kind for those who want more state intervention but in India a  more directly opposite meaning) are no philosophies or great ideas.Great ideas and great philosophies must have a universal sweep ,a more universal appeal.

Academic freedoms threatened?

It is said that  even in  developed countries  like USA and UK,there are new developments that  affect even the academic freedoms,to think and write on the world we live in.The universities are becoming racial and also nationalistic in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and London.In the countries outside Europe,in Russia and Iran for instance,there is much oppression to free thought.

It is always acknowledged so in China. In India? Not much activity from the academic campuses to make any headlines! A pity for a country that has everything going for its democracy success and one must hope for its academic freedoms. Not so. Not much thought is also given to this state of affairs. Indian universities have lately become more bureaucratic and more subject to State or Central Government politics. The structures of our universities, their funding patterns are  making them government dependent for their survival.Unlike the US and even UK universities that have long histories of private endowments and private funding. Much more than the funds or economic security of the faculty,is the long tradition of academic freedoms.

In India,we don’t have also a high social status for university professors or academic life in general. Also,because of our colonial past and the present globalisation,the emergence of NRI intellectuals also have affected  the India-based academic standards.Another factor is the peculiar middle class mindset in India where we equate the government servants,the bureaucrats  both as experts as well as intellectuals. They write books, any type of books and they immediately consider themselves as intellectuals.They are not.The full-time academic careers are of low social status,poorly paid,also feared by the incumbent governments, the quality of the academic work is not worth writing about! If there is  or are areas of some freedoms it is among the private sector-riven media,newspapers and periodicals and some learned societies, NGOs and individual writers.There is a sense of despondency among the elite.Somehow,there is no big thinking, big ideas coming out of the Indian elite community.What best we get is from the NRI intellectuals,those who teach in the USA and who make periodic visits here.That is all.

Indian publishing industry is growing but much published work is fiction,novels by the young and not so young.As for  more general books,there is very little,books don’t sell as they do in the West,the languages books publishing is not very active, except may be ,in Malayalam and Bengali. One thing is sure everywhere. What Indian people,the elite, I mean, take for granted, the many rights and freedoms,are not available widely as imagined. The freedoms and rights are still the preserve of the rich and affluent,those who can manipulate and control the levers of poltiical power.That is another reality about India!

Our freedoms and rights are curtailed for one reason or other.Even inside India! That is my worry.Luckily,we are a free country, a democracy and therefore there must be more opportunity to ask some basic questions.

Are our rights and freedoms available in full abundance or life for the vasy majority is as it was some centuries ago? I feel that our current phase of democracy has thrown up a new crop of politicians who are more illiterate then was the previous generation of the politicians.In the place of more generosity,there is a new frenzy of intolerance.There is a series of trends that are arbitrary, more immoral and more insensitive.

Things could be much better,if only we have a clear grasp of the issues that impact our present day lives. One or more positive features of the present times is that never before anywhere in the world, more so in India, there is a widespread creation of wealth,the world is a much better place in terms of material wealth and the consequent social and cultural benefits.So,we have to balance the positive features of the present times with the negative features. We have to understand and learn to appreciate the many ideas that underlie our belief systems.To that extent,our society would become more secular,driven by more liberal ideas, less the unreasoned, superstition, the impact and influence of uncritical faith in religions and a sort of miracles in the place of more sober and well-argued and well-conceived plans of action and governance.

Such thoughts only prompted me to reflect on some of the issues, philosophy and ideas and history. Yes,there was the world long before the philosophers came along. But men didnt know what this world was,what was life like and what was the meaning of life.Great civilizations flourished but men,before the Greeks,didnt ask those crucial questions of the meaning of life.That makes the Greeks a special people. Philosophy was bron in Greece and the rest is history!

I am never fascinated by academic philosophy and it is the practical applications and the practical implications of philosophical knowledge that interests me.Let us be clear about this point before we proceed further.

Pre-Socratic and post-Socratic philosophy

There was the pre-Socratic philosophy. Then came the philosophy as we understand it today.But the Socratic philosophy only gave us the tools to understand the world. But philosophy as it evolved all through the 2,000 years had given rise to so much of knowledge to man,mankind that without this accumulation of knowledge,our life on the planet would not have progressed into so much of civilization and so much of secular culture that all go to make our present day living so much of a delight and worthwhile in itself.One can speculate on this theme as one is capable of and the modern world has  so much potential to make every last man(unto the last) to realise his potential to the full.

To understand the place of philosophy in our life,we have to have a grasp of the history of philosophy.A penetrating essay by Isiah Berlin is  titled as”Is a history  of philosophy possible?”. Berlin had been a penetrating thinker, he thought about a great many fundamental  themes in modern history,though he didnt produce academic volumes he wrote and made lectures on some of the unusual topics like the conception of history, the conception of a scientific study of history, historic inevitability etc. Berlin is known as a philosopher who was interested in the history of ideas. This was never a specialized field of academic pursuit, at least in my time. I don’t know the position today but as far as I know even today the history of ideas doesn’t seem to interest many. There are any number of historians, have been in the recent past, the living historians like Eric Hobsbham, have enriched our understanding our own times as much as about the recent past.

Betrand Russell wrote a very readable “history of Western philosophy” and he writes in his introduction that such a venture was not an academic fashion for the simple reason that you cant make sense of a history of philosophy as philosophy grew out of individuals and to connect one philosopher to the other is not so easy.Strictly speaking, academic puritans are specialists, concentrating on individual philosophers and the generalists among the philosophers are not all thinkers of  high  originality like Russell.That is why we have very few philosophers who reach out to wider audience.

In India too we don’t have such a philosophical tradition. Indian philosophy is basically a religious philosophy, there is no secular philosophy here. Indian philosophy One more important aspect of one being a philosopher and being an expounder of public causes,the philosophy as such is also basically about the self-religious self,inner self etc. That is why it is widely believed that Indian philosophy is spiritual. But philosophy as such cant be spiritual or material. It must be philosophy,as source of all knowledge,”the external world”. Even the much-touted spiritual philosophy,”Know Thyself”is as much Western as any other philosophy!  Indian  intellectual has to rise up to the status of a public intellectual. Such a tradition is still there in the USA and Europe.

A public intellectual has to be an independent person,a sufficiently free person,a free thinker,sometimes,nay,often an adversary of the establishment. Unless you have a space for such  individuals,then such societies or cultures won’t nurture really independent thinking and no amount of  patronage is worth unless it is to encourage such free spirits to function. From earliest days to the modern times,to the present day, we see so much obstacles, so much oppression and suppression of independent opinion.As for radical opinions to flourish in such an environment is nearly impossible. To that extent such societies are truly free societies.

I was schooled in the Oxford philosophic tradition, a Western tradition and though my learning is not systematic and I have no flair for great exposition,I remain content with what I know and what I like to think further. Seen in this light,I find that Berlin’s many ideas which I keep reading, off and on,give me insights.One such idea  is that ,as Berlin noted, some of the ideas that originated during the European Enlightenment,ideas like tolerance and sincerity, integrity etc, were altogether new, ideas that were not know previously to mankind. For instance, the concept of the rights of man! It was Thomas Paine (1737-1809) who wrote  several pamphlets, one,Common Sense, (which sold half a million copies) and that directly led to American independence. The Rights of Man that defended French Revolution.

Paine had such an impact on boththe American and the French Revolutions,a Briton who did so much to two different countries and saw Revolution,not hereditary rights,that could ensure citizens’ welfare. He is the spirtual father of the modern welfare state.Rights,divine rights of kings were long debated.Even the concept of rights,their origins were debated for long,debated fiercely among philosophers.But it was  given to an unsuspected”son of  a corset-maker”, Paine who put the ‘rights’ after’ man’, that caught the fancy of the common man and changed the world as we know it now!  By all accounts Paine was an example of what philosophy could do to change the world for better. Such is the power of ideas and the power of philosophical thought.

In the history of philosophy we encounter such individuals who, unexpectedly, go on to leave behind them enormous powers of influence ,an influence not even the philosophers imagine their thoughts would have on mankind. Rene Descartes is one such,the most popular are of course Rousseau and Voltaire.They were hounded out in their life times, books banned and they ran for their lives and yet they were equally courted by famous sovereigns,outside France and what an impact their ideas have made on mankind.

The two Frenchmen,Rousseau and Voltaire,who in their life time were hunted down by their sovereign and yet the enlightened courts of Europe solicited their company. At any rate we can cite the lives of these two philosophers too to our defence of philosophy and it can help to transform the world into a more civlized and tolerant place.

Tolerance,more today? Or,less?

New intolerance in the new century?

The Alliance of Civilisation, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s project that is a global effort to unify the world opinion  in a world that is that is threatened by a cultural divide.How to bring about more understanding and possible interactions between the various world relgious and cultural interests,more  specifically to deal with the divide between Islamic and the Western world.Culture gap in a globalised world?Yes,yes! There are strong prejudices, misconceptions, besieged fortress mindsets! Iraq and Palestine,the two troubled spots.

Isiah Berlin has said that tolerance as a virtue was born only at the end of the seventeenth century.Intergity,sincerity were not among the virtues which were not admired in the medieval and ancient world.Toleration asan intrinsic virtue was recognised only in the Enlightenment.Before that time it was believed that truth is one, error many, objective truth was possible etc were the old mindset.The growth of sciences,social sciences gave a new insight into reason “new elements in the mutation in western thought” gave for the first time, a human perspective, human rights,freedom of man became virtues in themselves, ends of life! So,tolerance today is much more widespreadthan what it was during the earlier times. Of course,today we see more violent extremisms,terrorism and a pronenness to resort to war, military might and miltary display by big and not so big powers.Old colonial mindset is still intact in some Western European countries, the anti-racial sentiments,anti-racial riots,anti-immigration laws etc have onloy contibuting to the new intolerance in the new century.

What philosophy can do for us?

There is a chapter in Bertrand Russell’s first and brief book on philosophy, written in 1911,with the  effect: what use philosophy or what is the consolation of philosophy.Philosophy would give us some mental  balance,some breadth of outlook or some  philosophical way of looking at the world.At the time I read the book, The Problems of Philosophy, I was very much struck with the uniqueness of the subject and that was the first time,sometime in 1959 on the eve of my going to Oxford and I took that philosophy is a very different world.Even now,after all these years of reading and reflecting and living the life as I had done and after involving myself in so many fields,politics and economics,my view of philosophy had changed vastly. Vastly, because even now whenever I take up some philosophical book or an article and I seek to read as much as I could in India in all the new books that come out of UK I feel that philosophy for me is no more an academic exercise.Most books,old and new,remain unfortunately highly academic and that leave me a bit unfulfilled.

Of course there are so many books that are written just to popularise the subject, books like Russell himself as in most of his popular best-sellers as well as others like C.E.M.Joad and others and even these dont go beyond certain limits intothe practical world.In the real world we are often,why almost everyday,we are troubled by the several challenges and we are faced with asking some questions that directly point to me at philosophical questions.

Philosophy, as I see it, often leads to politics,that is  that big philosophic questions necessarily raises the questions about how I shoud go about them,what I should do and what must be my stand etc.This has been my experience. But in most cases of philosophers and  in most philosophies, the books and articles dont bother to turn to this practical side of the life.May be the philosophers I had read must have been for most part academic philosophers but I also see often that most philosophers who did bring about philosophical revolutions,either in their life time or afterwards, were very much concerned about the society and poltiica around them. This is certainly true about Rousseau, Voltaire and even before them, Rene Descartes and others.Of course,we all know that both Plato and Aristole,besides speculating on philosophical questions ,also tutored princes and went on to advise and  write  on the Constitutions of the States. So,it is very much the very nature of philosophy to concern itself with the practical concerns and activities of the people.

Now, what is the problem?

Fears of Communism still?

I find that after the fall of Communism,the world is bereft of any isms.Except if you take terrorism as one more, or more threatening isms of a more dangerous kind. I am not sure. But I find that there is still serious concerns about the prospects of Communism coming back.Of course such fears and dangers are more likely to emerge in Europe and USA only.Europe had been a home for some of the worst genocides in history.The twentieth century itself is a worst European century,with the two world wars and also minor wars in the wake of the fall of Communism,the breakup of Yugoslavia.Even now into the new century we witness wars of a more dangerous kind,a unilateral war declared by USA without the sanction of the world community.

European Council(Council of Europe) is parliamentary assembly  voted to condemn the totalitarian communist regimes this year!The year marking the 50th year of Krushchev’s denounciation of Stalin’s crimes. Why choose Communism when it is already dead for 15 years? The Swedish MP (Goran Lindblad) who sponsored the resolution, narrowly defeated for lack of two-third majority vote, says that Communism is still alive “legally and actively in some countries”! The allies in this resolution seem to be many rightwing groups in the former Eastern European countries where Communism, we learn, are still feared to be alive! I was taken aback when I read it, because I wondored whether India is one such country?

But then the resolution says that Communism is still written in textbooks,taught,memorial days celebrated or meuseums are set up etc. This may be dismissed as an over-reaction but then there are people in Europe,older Europe,where such fears are real. So too the debates that are going on whether Nazism  can be equated with Communism.Both the isms killed mind-boggling number of human beings!

But the consolation for Indians at any rate is that the European concern for Communism (the number killed for defeating Nazism put at 50 million lives, but the number died because of Stalin is left out) and Nazism (the number perished in gas chambers is enormous) and their atrocities are also put in contrast with the European colonialism, the devastating famines that killed millions in India under the British rule and German colonialism in today’s Nambia, Belgian atrocities in Congo (10 million Congolese perished), Algerians under the French, Indians under the British are  all not openly  discussed.

The point is that there is more tension today than before over the present potential for wars and more killings.In the US,the universities are now under what is called the Campus Watch that forbids professors to be appointed,professors suspct to be sympathetic to Aabd cause, Iraq and anti-Jewish ands anti-Israel,because,this is important, the  major donors to US major universities like Harvard(John Mearseheimer-Stephen Walt monograph on the Jewish Lobby in the making of American foreign policy),Yale(Juan Cole) and Michigan are Jewish and they put pressure not to appoint professors sympathetic to these causes.

There are new books on American militarism,a book is called, America Right or Wrong”Ana Anatomy of American Nationalism.There are quotations from George Washington and James Maddison,the founders of the US nation about the dangers of war.War in the modern world,war today has much more serious consequences than ever.Historian,Ibn Khaldun is quoted:”the evil of falsehood is to be fought with enlightened speculation”.

Alexander Herzen

History moves by time and every century can be studied from the point of view of the growth of new ideas.The subject is vast and many have explored many interesting themes. The history of ideas or the study of the history of ideas gives us many insights for the present.And the history of philosophy gives us a still  more comprehensive view of how the knowledge had moved peoples and  led them to build their many institutions by which they lived and also how they went about forming their own belief systems, the politics, power and the wars and the conquests and the birth and consolidation of certain central faiths that kept the world moving.

The rise of European Enlightenment  gave men some new light and clarity about people becoming free and independent of the old bindings.In the old system of absolute powers of the sovereign the people, the masses didnt matter.With the rise of Enlightenment we see the notion of the rights of the people acquired a distinct new thinking. The growth of sciences and the material wealth creation by the new science of economics gave rise of the origins of capitalism, the end of feudalism was signalled.With the revolutions in America and France came the idea of a single world where men can unite on the basis of equality,a single world governed by modern ideas of rights and laws,rights and  duties (to obey the laws)came along. The 18th century saw the Enlightenment and the 19th saw the rise of many movements, philosophical and poltiical ,there were more revolutionaries, international revolutionaries in Europe than there were at any other time.

They were all in Europe, many like Alexander Herzen (born 1812-1870)and Karl Marx and others like Proudhon and and others who were all born to lead a life of,Romantic idealism,(Isiah Berlin, Herzen and his Memoirs) and they,including Karl Marx and other nationalists,in particular, Mazzini and  Garibaldi were his close friends. Herzen is now  recognised as the founder of the modern Russian intelligentsia,father of  Russian Socialism ,a dreamer and creator of the idealistic Russian peasant-based Populism.Herzen  was  born rich,learnt French,German and read widely in the classics, his family fortunes ,education and high status enabled him to travel in style and live a very aristocrastic life abroad. Though he had his ups and downs  in those tumultous times.He and his contemporaries,some revolutionaries some dreamers, they all dreamt of  a new world, a liberal world, a liberal society of equal society, equal rights and privileges. Herzen and other revolutionaries, revolutionary socialists like Bakunin and Proudhon, were great believers in the utopia of socialism. The  revolutions in country after country in Europe in 1848 were all inspired by  such revolutionaries of whom the most famous was of course Karl Marx. But they all went in different directions and what we get from these great many thinkers is how theenlightened world. Only in the peculiar 19th century environment such people could have led such a romantic utopian life.

Leo Tolstoy

Herzen’s father was distinctively related to the czar Romanov and we find Herzen appealing the successive czars to liberate  the serfs,introduce this or that reforms all his life. Leo Tolstoy greatly admired him,thought there was this jealousy,one could say, as both led a sort of parallel lives,except Herzen wandered in Europe as an exile and Tolstoy living back in Russia. Herzen was a ‘Westerner’ whileTolstoy, though not a ‘Slavophil’ he was a nationalist, Tolstoy and Herzen belonged to the same social class and shared the same outlook, though Tolstoy  was no believer in socialism or liberal reforms. Tolstoy met Herzen in his London house in  1861 and had narrated how Herzen “generated electric energy”! Both believed in an utopian society and the literary and artistic merits of Herzen’s writings can be  had from so many of his great conemporaries, Dostoevsky, Turgenev and  Tolstoy himself. They all admired his literary gifts as they admirerd his  more daring life. “Art and the summer lightening of  individual happiness” was  Herzen’s personal credo.

And how his countrymen saw his contributions? Gorky said of Herzen,”he brought an entire province, a country astonishingly rich in ideas,all that he touches,things,sens ations. feelings, persons, ideas, institutions and entire cultures.. given shape and life  by his  powerful imagination..stood up against the forces of decay,his intelligence,his artistic genius recovered and reconstructed… his thoughts and ideas(My Past and Thought,the only definitive book of his that lasts to this day), he saved himself against the destructive floods in which many idealistic radicals of his day drowned…”.Herzen died” broken both morally and physically but not disillusioned” (Berlin) Herzen’s life and work,says Berlin, changed the direction of social thought in Russia, he can be truly said to be the father of Russian Socialism.

In personal life he was an extra-ordinary personality. He gave generously to others, he kept revolutionaries like Proudhon going and he was so self-less and we read his darkest peiords that invite tears to our eyes!I didnt know till now how great writer he was and he could write in several languages and he is ,in my present opinion,almost on par with the great Tolstoy. Tolstoy is wiedly known because of his novels but for the social and poltiical and revolutionary life he is more on equal footing with Karl Marx.

It is no exaggeration to say and even to confess, I myself felt a sort of  spiritual companionship when I read these lines and more( in Berlin’s Essay).  Though I have been a long-time admirer of Tolstory here I found Herzen more to my present state of mind and taste for the Western progress and secularist ideals more in tune with the  world as it had evolved.This is no time for simplistic yearnings for a  more pastoral type of utopia.We have to all lives up to the demands of a more technologically advanced and yet humane world of material wealth for the vast mass of people. So,I confess I had experienced a sort of mild shock and a sort of reverie to have found a more an intimate kinship with such a cosmopolitan  citizen of  world.

Soon I  recovered! In my own life I underwent such a resistence andobstruction,  when I came back to India with my own radical ideas to change the world! I underwent a transformation and a second birth to come to terms with life in the country!  I am glad that I got to know the great life and beliefs of such a great Russian thinker and activist.

The birth of modern science or sciences along with the  birth of the social sciences,economics, law, sociology, the birth of Positivism and much else also had its impact on our modern life.Ideas from such diverse social sciences, including the psychology,also had an impact on the way we live and go about our business of living.

Our current knowledge status gives us lots of new insights.The growth of sciences and social sciences,including the history of philosophy gives us, in the new century a rare opportunity to look back and take stock of how far we have travelled and where we stand to day and  even the possible future courses open to mankind.

Threats to freedoms in the new century

As I see it is the growth of freedoms of man and mankind, the growth of the human rights that has no precedent in human history.Such vast masses of people today enjoy these unheard of privileges.The spread of democracy is now almost universal, some 111 countries are said to be having some kind of elected parliamentary governments. Yes,there are still old type, medieval type dictatorships,much suppression of freedoms and human rights but the  progress elsewhere is impacting even these little pockets of resistence. Yes,there is much swings, swings of extremism, rightwing phobia about the return of Communism, the big state etc. But then there is also the breakdown of many barriers.There is unheard of migration at the international level. Almost all old colonial countries face the problem of multicultural issues and even in the US there is the vast ethnic minorities,the Hispanic children in Californian schools pose new challenges. American Indians are now a new entity for Indians as well as for Americans. So too the changed perspectives both in India and in the uSA about the changing values of the outlook for Indians of this generation.The IT revolution had only accelerated the process,now globalisation has many dimensions.

In all these developments, it is the spread of freedom, human rights,the individual freedom, the new consciousness of the individuals as being unique and we need to look forward to enlarge the human freedoms. So too the strucutre of the State. It is here we see the penetrating insights of a thinker like Berlin on the negative and positive freedoms. The State even today, with much of the catalysmatic changes, the fall of Communism, the break up of Yugoslovia, the softening of the nationlisms of the older variety, the  emergence of new ethnic and even racial  rightwing fanaticism, the German and Slav nationalism in Europe is the most vicious kind and refuses to go away even in the open societies world of today. So,we see that our freedoms are often denied by the State and the other rising tide of extremisms of religious, ethnic and racial kinds.

So, human freedoms are still far off, human freedoms are never securued, it seems. So, there will be fights going on, may be for ever to secure this sense of human freedoms. Also,there will be this drive towards positive freedoms, the world is becoming more conducive,if we can say so with a naive bit of optimism, for more positive freedoms. There are so many forces operating today then ever. The United  Nations, the Millennium Development Goals sums up in a way this drive towards more psotive freedoms to the widest sections of mankind. So,too the many institutions, from international institutions to local civil societies that would fight for and secure human freedoms to the last man.

So, a world free of wars,or at least the  possibilioty of avoiding the large scale wars and larege scale wanton killings, genocides of such scales we had witnessed even in our times are all in the realms of possibility.

Isiah Berlin’s”Crooked timber of humanity”!

Isiah Berlin all his life lived a cloistered life inside the cosy towers of All Souls College, Oxford. Those who know the unique All Souls would understand what it is to live such a privileged life. So,I think,we have to understand the significance of his highly original views and also the limitations of such thinking. Berlin’s favourite quotation is from Immanuel Kant who said  so famously: “From the crooked timber of humanity,nothing comes straight”.So,this was Berlin’s credo too. He was so sceptical of all theories,theories of any kind that propose any grand schemes, either in abstract thought or concrete programmes. After surveying the vast human history, the history of thought, Berlin reached a sort of conclusion that we can be  sure of only this much: we are free in our own individual ways.Much has been written about Berlin’s,this peculiar thesis: philosophy wont yield a priori knoledge of man’s nature or of the universe. Nor by logical translation can philosophy afford’incorrigible empirical knowledge’.This is for pure philosophers to debate! But for me here Berlin’s thesis seems: the progress of man cant be taken for granted. There are no strict proofs to some of the beliefs men live by.Reason is paramount but not enough.

There is reason, faith,emotions,feelings thata re given by the arts and linterature and manners. So,what we can hope for and live by are certain open-mindedness, a tolerance of pluralism, multiple choices for mankind. So, we find him  highly critical of all systems, grand theories like Marxism. Yes,he has so much to say on Marx (he is my authority on Marxism) and other thinkers. But then, most of these great thinkers were never ivory tower thinkers. They went into the world and fought their ways, some might have falied miserably (like Marx) but many others, both utopians as well as scientific thinkers (like Aguste Comte) advanced mankind’s quest for a more egalitarian, less oppressive societies. The American and French Revolutions altered, irretrievably, man’s own estimation of himself, a sense of self-dignity and an dentity to moern was achieved in these two revolutions.

So,we can conclude that Berlin’s positive contributions are the emphasis on human freedoms as he expounded and hence the implications for how the history of the last three centuries had opened up new knowedge and new  freedoms to mankind.

The last four centuries

18th century was a century of the European Enlightenment

It saw the rise of reason,tolerance, liberty,equality,so many freedoms, human rights,ordinary people became citizens. 19th century was the century of so many radival thinkers, revolutions and radical, utopian programmes for ideal societies 1848 revolutions,Karl Marx, Alexander Herzen, Communism, Positivism,Romantic radicals and ‘scientific’ revolutionaries.

20th century was the century of great wars and mass-scale killings, rise of nationlism,breakup of colonialism,the later half century was the century of relative peace in the world 21st century:IT revolution, Internet, globalisation, the creation of wealth on the widest scale,world sees a rare opportunity to wipe out poverty, diseases,illiteracy and a new prosperity. May be all the utopias are likely to be realised. But there  are new threats to peace and success of democracies and individual freedoms, potential for terrorist violence and even nuclear threats.

Image Source: digischool.nl

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