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Quentin Skinner: Liberty Before Liberalism. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 142. $34.95. $9.95, paper.)
Quentin Skinner's inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge is a reply to the inaugural lecture that Isaiah Berlin delivered just over forty years ago, on 31 October 1958, when he assumed the Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory in the University of Oxford. Berlin gave his lecture the title Two Concepts of Liberty (1958). Skinner insists that there are three such concepts. He accepts Berlin's distinction between "positive" and "negative" liberty; he endorses his diatribe against the former; and he then argues that his predecessor failed to recognize that "negative" liberty takes two forms--a form "republican" or, as he now prefers to call it, "neo-roman" (p. 11, n. 31; pp. 54-55, nn. 174, 176). and a form "liberal."
Skinner warns us that "it is easy to become bewitched into believing that the ways of thinking...bequeathed to us by the mainstream of our intellectual traditions must be the ways of thinking about them" (p. 116). He invites us to see the past "as a repository of values we no longer endorse, of questions we no longer ask." The intellectual historian we are to think of as "a kind of archaeologist" whose "excavation" into the past can bring "buried intellectual treasure back to the surface" (p. 112). "This is not to suggest," he adds by way of caution, "that we should use the past as a repository of alien values to be foisted off on to an unsuspecting present. If the study of intellectual history is to have the kind of use I am claiming for it, there must be some deeper level at which our present values and the seemingly alien assumptions of our forbears to some degree match up" (p. 116).
Skinner hopes--by …