In Berlin’s account, the thinkers of the Enlightenment believed humanbeings to be naturally either benevolent or malleable. This created atension within Enlightenment thought between the view that naturedictates human ends, and the view that nature provides more or lessneutral material, to be moulded rationally and benevolently(ultimately the same thing) by conscious humanefforts—education, legislation, rewards and punishment, thewhole apparatus of society. Berlin also attributed to the Enlightenment the beliefs that allhuman problems, both of knowledge and ethics, can be resolved throughthe discovery and application of the proper method (generally reason,the conception of which was based on the methods of the naturalsciences, particularly Newtonian physics); and that genuine humangoods and interests were ultimately compatible, so that conflict, likewickedness, was the result of ignorance, or of deception andoppression practiced by corrupt authorities (particularly the Church).
French society of is something now visible in the artwork of the Impressionist painters, whose images remains one of the most popular forms of modern art.
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Detailing Lambek’s trajectory as one anthropologist thinking deeply throughout a career on the nature of ethical life, the essays accumulate into a vibrant demonstration of the relevance of ethics as a practice and its crucial importance to ethnography, social theory, and philosophy.
Organized chronologically, the essays begin among Malagasy speakers on the island of Mayotte and in northwest Madagascar.
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In the area of political philosophy, the most widespread controversyover pluralism concerns its relationship to liberalism. This debateoverlaps with that regarding pluralism’s relationship to relativism,to the extent that liberalism is regarded as resting on a belief incertain universal values and fundamental human rights, a belief whichrelativism undermines. However, there are some who maintain that,while pluralism is distinct from, and preferable to, relativism, it isnevertheless too radical and subversive to be reconciled to liberalism(or, conversely, that liberalism is too universalistic or absolutistto be compatible with pluralism). The main proponent of this view, whois more responsible than any other thinker for the emergence and widediscussion of this issue, is John Gray (see, especially, Gray 1995).Gray asserts that pluralism is true, that pluralism underminesliberalism, and that therefore liberalism, at least as it hastraditionally been conceived, should be abandoned.
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As stated above, Berlin held both that values are human creations, andthat they are ‘objective’; and the foundation for thislatter claim is ambiguous in Berlin’s work. The claim that values areobjective in being founded on (or expressions of) and limited bycertain realities of human nature would seem to provide a defenceagainst relativism, in holding that there is an underlying, commonhuman nature which makes at least some values non-relative. However,the argument that values are objective simply because they are pursuedby human beings seems to allow for relativism, since it makes thevalidity of values dependent on nothing but human preferences, andallows any values actually pursued by human beings (and, therefore,any practices adopted in pursuing those values) to claim validity.
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One of the main features of Berlin’s account of pluralism is theemphasis placed on the act of choosing between values. Pluralism holdsthat, in many cases, there is no single right answer. Berlin used thisas an argument for the importance of liberty—or, perhaps moreprecisely, an argument against the restriction of liberty in order toimpose the ‘right’ solution by force. Berlin also made alarger argument about making choices. Pluralism involves conflicts,and thus choices, not only between particular values in individualcases, but between ways of life. While Berlin seems to suggest thatindividuals have certain inherent traits—an individual nature,or character, which cannot be wholly altered or obscured—he alsoinsisted that they make decisions about who they will be and what theywill do. Choice is thus both an expression of an individualpersonality, and part of what makes that personality; it is essentialto the human self.