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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Crooked Timber of Humanity

I asked in an earlier post if Jonah Goldberg was quoting when he referred to “the crooked timber of humanity”. Well, it was the title of a book of essays by Isaiah Berlin, who had the phrase from Immanuel Kant: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."

Despair, right? As a properly introspective human being, you know that you are imperfect, that you fall short of the ideal? Of course you do. But you also know that not every deed you have ever done was wicked, or done from wicked motives.

It is an evocative phrase. It evokes for me half-timbered houses, some of the loveliest of buildings in Britain. Indeed, it is the approximate symmetry of these structures which gives them their beauty – one bent timber is laid against another.

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