Wednesday, March 18, 2020



Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russian Thinkers (1978; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 1994), p. 148:
Turgenev's liberalism and moderation, for which he was so much criticised, took the form of holding everything in solution—of remaining outside the situation in a state of watchful and ironical detachment, uncommitted, evenly balanced—an agnostic oscillating contentedly between atheism and faith, belief in progress and scepticism, an observer in a state of cool, emotionally controlled doubt before a spectacle of life where nothing is quite what it seems, where every quality is infected by its opposite, where paths are never straight, never cross in geometrically regular patterns. For him (this is his version of the Hegelian dialectic) reality for ever escapes all artificial ideological nets, all rigid, dogmatic assumptions, defies all attempts at codification, upsets all symmetrical moral or sociological systems, and yields itself only to cautious, emotionally neutral, scrupulously empirical attempts to describe it bit by bit, as it presents itself to the curious eye of the morally disinterested observer.

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