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Between history and philosophy: Isaiah Berlin on political theory and hermeneutics.

Zoido Oses, Paula (2016) Between history and philosophy: Isaiah Berlin on political theory and hermeneutics. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.f7hwpdxvkf9c

Abstract

This thesis offers a positive reinterpretation of the relevance of Isaiah Berlin’s political thought. It re-examines his work hermeneutically with the double aim of claiming its intrinsic relevance as a work of political theory beyond what most critics have acknowledged, first; and second, with the intention of using it to draw conclusions that will address some of the most pressing discussions found in contemporary liberal political theory, such as the conflicting link between value pluralism and liberalism, or the recent confrontation between political moralism and political realism. This is achieved by reading Berlin hermeneutically, and thus transcending the categorical differentiation between historical and philosophical methods in his work. The argument is presented in three sections. The first one is a biographical introduction that acts as a methodological statement. In it, the dilemma on the nature of values that sits at the heart of Berlin’s work is defined by reference to his biographical context. The second section of the thesis is formed by three chapters that look at the central philosophical aspects of Berlin’s political thought: value pluralism and a neo-Kantian normative ethical theory that emerges in relation to it. By claiming a relationship between Berlin and Kant, and by presenting value pluralism as a meta-ethical theory, the thesis offers an alternative reading of Berlin’s work that deviates substantively from most existing scholarship. The third section of the thesis compares Berlin’s political interpretation of value pluralism with that of Bernard Williams and John Rawls, in order to claim that liberal theory demands a hermeneutic method in its justification. This will show the enduring relevance of Berlin’s contribution to political theory as one that expands beyond his own historical moment, against what many commentators have argued. It also raises a strong claim on the crucial implications of method in political theory, calling for a more hermeneutic approach.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Paula Zoido Oses
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: Kelly, Paul and Glendinning, Simon
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3644

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