Radical Enlightenment : Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750, Paperback Book

Radical Enlightenment : Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 Paperback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)

Description

Arguably the most decisive shift in the history of ideas in modern times was the complete demolition during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - in the wake of the Scientific Revolution - of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief, by the new philosophy and the philosophies, culminating in Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.

In this revolutionary process which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, slavery, and ecclesiastical authority, as well as man's asendancy over woman and theology's domination over education and study, substituting the modern principles of equality, democracy, and universality, the Radical Enlightenment played a crucially important part.

Despite the present-day interest in the revolutions of the late eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have been astonishingly little studied, doubtless largely because if its very wide international sweep and the obvious difficulties of fitting it into the restrictive conventions of 'national history' which until recently tended to dominate all historiography. The greatest obstacle to the Radical Enlightenment finding its proper place in modern historical writing is simply that it was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time.

In this novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettrie and Diderot, two of its key exponents, particular stress is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism.

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 832 pages, 16pp halftone plates and 1 map
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780199254569

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Review by
4.5

"The Radical Enlightenment" is extremely interesting until the very end, but I suppose at the same time a book not every reader (I mean: reader of this kind of non-fiction) would like. One could remark that the quality of this work is also its weak side.The central thesis: Spinoza and his circle (all Dutchmen) furnished the fundamental ideas of the Enlightenment in its strongest form. J.Israel, the author, defends his idea that neither England (Locke, Newton,&c.), nor France (Voltaire, Fontenelle, &c.), nor Germany (mainly Leibniz) were the real birthplaces of Enlightenment in its purest form ( absolute liberty of conscience and religion, rationalism, equality of the sexes, tolerance, &c.). The principal thinkers in these countries tried to conciliate traditional values (Christianity as a revealed religion with its dogmatic theology, absolute monarchy, male superiority, &c.) with new scientific ideas (empiricism in particular). French thinkers (in particular Voltaire) were the least prone to reconciliation, but even they didn't propose original ideas. The High Enlightenment (from about 1750) was only possibly because the most infuentious thinkers had by then integrated Spinoza's ideas. Israel proves his thesis so abundantly thatto attack him will be difficult for anyone who would feel the need.But the abundance is also the problem of this book. There is such a proficiency in detail, so many -even very minor -contributions to Enlightenment are quoted at length, the lives of so many theologians, heretics, philosophers, editors, vicars, scoundrels or aristocrats (and some people were all of that at once) are minitiously rendered, that it is difficult at some moments to keep an eye on the general idea. However the book is conceived as a unity, attested by the fact that in every paragraph there are references to other parts, making it impossible to consider the book just as a kind of encyclopaedia, a companion to Enlightenment thought and historiography.An occasional reader cannot dip into it without feeling lost. This is a book that should be read from page 1 to 720 (in small print!), which supposes a really motivated public.But if you accept that, it is an extremely enriching experience, offering many insights even concerning recent events or discussions (e.g. the 'Intelligent Design' debate among American intelligentsia these last years).private comment posted by Caroline

Review by
5

In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophers, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions of the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time.In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism.