Had Isaiah Berlin Never Read Augustine?

Isaiah Berlin suggests that before Machiavelli, it was a "fundamental belief of Western political thought" that "it is only because of lack of skill or stupidity or bad fortune that we have not so far succeeded in discovering the solution whereby all interests will be brought into harmony."

But I don't think Aristotle or Polybius ever thought this, and I'm quite sure Augustine didn't: the city of man cannot be turned into the city of God by any means.

What a strange contention from Berlin!


  1. Bill Buckley spoke at Notre Dame a long time ago. Maybe it was 1960. After he got done we undergraduates swarmed around for an autograph.

    When I finally got up next to him, I realized I had no paper with me. Just a book. I handed it to him. It was Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox. Buckley looked at it down his long nose with his head tilted back, and then opened the book to the copyright page. There he wrote in a bold hand:

    Magnum Obstat

    Wm F Buckley, Jr

    I still have the book.

    1. Oakeshott shared that opinion: apparently he and Berlin could not stand each other.


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