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The roots of romanticism

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In these lectures, originally 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. Berlin's tone is informed but rarely obtuse, making The Roots of Romanticism as fun to read as it must have been to hear him deliver spoken. --Ron Hogan

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