History, method, and pluralism : a re-interpretation of Isaiah Berlin's political thought
In the literature on Berlin to date, two broad approaches to study his political thought can be detected. The first is the piecemeal approach, which tends to single out an element of Berlin's thought (for example, his distinction between negative liberty and positive liberty) for exposition or criticism, leaving other elements unaccounted. And the second is the holistic approach, which pays attention to the overall structure of Berlin's thought as a whole, in particular the relation between his defence for negative liberty and pluralism. This thesis is to defend the holistic approach against the piecemeal approach, but its interpretation will differ from the two representative readings, offered by Claude J. Gallipeau and John Gray, of this approach. By focusing on the relation between Berlin's historical methodology and his political arguments, this thesis argues that the doctrine of value-pluralism should be understood as Berlin's vision of the world, his empathetic approach to understanding a methodological strategy to transcend cultural difference, and his engagement with the history of ideas an enterprise to enlarge his readers' vision of human possibility so that they can come to see the fact that their own chosen forms of life are relatively valid. It begins with a reconstruction of Berlin's methodology, and by way of exploring the presuppositions in his methodology it will be argued that his methodology in fact is ethics-laden and for this reason only those who share his moral concerns would be able to implement his prescribed methodology thoroughly - in other words, those who disagree with his morality and are determined not to act on his advice would not become Berlinian liberals who would realise the relative validity of their convictions. And it concludes that Berlin's case for value-pluralism is unproven yet it may not be falsified either.