In Search of Isaiah Berlin tells the story of Hardy’s extraordinary encounter with Berlin...with passion, wit, and verve ... Hardy ends the book with a moving confession ... This beautifully produced book is a timely reminder of that important point as well as an invitation to reread a major thinker whose ideas remain relevant today.
It may be difficult for In Search of Isaiah Berlin to find a general audience. The author’s self-described 'pedantry' is at times on full display as he reproduces pages of letters between himself and Berlin, clarifying a recondite point on cultural pluralism or negative liberty. Undoubtedly specialists, or those quite familiar with the writings of Isaiah Berlin or this unusual four-decade editorial relationship, will find the work of most interest. Nevertheless, Henry Hardy has produced a capstone to a remarkable story of letters, a Boswellian tale, a 40-year literary adventure.
Hardy attempts to open the door to the reader through two narrative strands. The first is the story of his work as an editor. The second is an analysis of his subject’s philosophy of pluralism and religious belief. Either will only be of interest to a reader already familiar with the philosophy of Berlin. A curious reader should start elsewhere ... But criticism that this book is too intricate to act as an introduction would be to judge it against a role that it never claims to fill. The intellectual thrill of the accuracy of a footnote is the stuff of this work ... The scaffolding of scholarship is the well referenced claim and the definitive footnote. This book is a testament to the unsung effort behind their creation.
Hardy gives an informative if highly specialized account ... Hardy is an understated but affectionate (if occasionally self-conscious) narrator, clearly devoted to Berlin but not unaware of the great man’s flaws and idiosyncrasies ... This volume will appeal mostly to specialists already familiar with Berlin, as it is not the best introduction to his work and ideas. Nevertheless, the new perspective on an important intellectual figure is of great value.