A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy

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Overview

"This book succeeds beautifully. Written with confidence and concision, it lays out Jonathan Israel's central ideas about the Radical Enlightenment and its fundamental importance in shaping the values of democratic modernity. Those who already know his work will find a clear and bold statement of his principal arguments, as well as important elaborations and expansions. Those unfamiliar with his scholarship will get a masterful introduction to the work of one of the leading Enlightenment scholars in the world today."—Darrin M. McMahon, Florida State University

"Interesting, erudite, and provocative, this book provides readers with a succinct and clear introduction to Jonathan Israel's wide-ranging work on the Radical Enlightenment. It should command a broad readership."—James Schmidt, Boston University

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Century
Perhaps no active scholar has shaped the conversation about the sources and meaning of the Enlightenment more than Jonathan Israel. . . . Almost miraculously, Israel manages to embody the greatest intellectual virtues and vices.
Nation - Samuel Moyn
Spinoza's radicalism was certainly frightening in its time, and Israel has valuably if aggressively opened the question of its influence on the Enlightenment and the era of revolution.
Harper's Magazine - Benjamin Moser
Israel is right to emphasize the importance of this intellectual movement, but since his is such a sweeping revision of so many generations of received ideas, his work raises the question of why the radical Enlightenment has been misunderstood or obscured for so long in favor of such colorful figures as Voltaire (in Israel's telling, a witty, snobbish sycophant). . . . We are lucky that a historian of Israel's caliber has taken these subjects on and lucky, too, that he has now produced a readable introduction to them.
1650-1850 - Rivka Weisberg and Carl Pletsch
Israel succeeds commendably in a great evaluation and dissemination of generally unknown texts from beyond the familiar territories of France, England, and America. In this respect, he broadens the common conception of where Enlightenment ideas were debated and implemented, unlike Isaiah Berlin, who failed to notice the American Enlightenment.
From the Publisher
"Spinoza's radicalism was certainly frightening in its time, and Israel has valuably if aggressively opened the question of its influence on the Enlightenment and the era of revolution."—Samuel Moyn, Nation

"Israel is right to emphasize the importance of this intellectual movement, but since his is such a sweeping revision of so many generations of received ideas, his work raises the question of why the radical Enlightenment has been misunderstood or obscured for so long in favor of such colorful figures as Voltaire (in Israel's telling, a witty, snobbish sycophant). . . . We are lucky that a historian of Israel's caliber has taken these subjects on and lucky, too, that he has now produced a readable introduction to them."—Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine

"Israel's reasoned assertion for the influence of the Radical Enlightenment on democratic thought is certainly compelling, making this essential reading for students of the Enlightenment era as well as anyone interested in the foundations of modern democracy."—Library Journal

"Israel's new book is a breathtaking rethinking of the Enlightenment and its impact in the modern world."—Choice

"Perhaps no active scholar has shaped the conversation about the sources and meaning of the Enlightenment more than Jonathan Israel. . . . Almost miraculously, Israel manages to embody the greatest intellectual virtues and vices."—Christian Century

"Israel succeeds commendably in a great evaluation and dissemination of generally unknown texts from beyond the familiar territories of France, England, and America. In this respect, he broadens the common conception of where Enlightenment ideas were debated and implemented, unlike Isaiah Berlin, who failed to notice the American Enlightenment."—Rivka Weisberg and Carl Pletsch, 1650-1850

"In telling this fascinating story, A Revolution of the Mind reveals the surprising origins of our most cherished values—and helps explain why in certain circles they are frequently disapproved of and attacked even today."—World Book Industry

Nation
Spinoza's radicalism was certainly frightening in its time, and Israel has valuably if aggressively opened the question of its influence on the Enlightenment and the era of revolution.
— Samuel Moyn
Harper's Magazine
Israel is right to emphasize the importance of this intellectual movement, but since his is such a sweeping revision of so many generations of received ideas, his work raises the question of why the radical Enlightenment has been misunderstood or obscured for so long in favor of such colorful figures as Voltaire (in Israel's telling, a witty, snobbish sycophant). . . . We are lucky that a historian of Israel's caliber has taken these subjects on and lucky, too, that he has now produced a readable introduction to them.
— Benjamin Moser
Choice
Israel's new book is a breathtaking rethinking of the Enlightenment and its impact in the modern world.
Library Journal
In this sharply written synthesis, Israel (modern history, Inst. for Advanced Study, Princeton) deftly traces the intellectual development of modern democratic thought from its origins in the philosophies of Spinoza and Bayle to the Atlantic revolutionary movements of the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s. Central to Israel's cerebral argument, also put forward in his two previous monumental works, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 and Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752, is the concept of a dialectical Enlightenment pitting the mainstream or moderate Enlightenment of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Smith against the clandestine forces of a Radical Enlightenment advocated by Baron d'Holbach, Helvetius, and Diderot. Israel maintains that while moderate advocates were comfortable working within the confines of traditional authority characterized by censorship, social inequality, and privilege, radical thinkers sought nothing less than the destruction of the ancien régime and the restructuring of society based upon equality. VERDICT Israel's reasoned assertion for the influence of the Radical Enlightenment on democratic thought is certainly compelling, making this essential reading for students of the Enlightenment era as well as anyone interested in the foundations of modern democracy.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L, AL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691152608
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/26/2011
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 522,649
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Jonathan Israel is professor of modern history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is in the process of finishing a monumental three-volume history of the Radical Enlightenment, the first two volumes of which, "Radical Enlightenment" and "Enlightenment Contested", have already been published.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii
CHAPTER I: Progress and the Enlightenment's Two Conflicting Ways of Improving the World 1
CHAPTER II: Democracy or Social Hierarchy? The Political Rift 37
CHAPTER III: The Problem of Equality and Inequality: The Rise of Economics 92
CHAPTER IV: The Enlightenment's Critique of War and the Quest for "Perpetual Peace" 124
CHAPTER V: Two Kinds of Moral Philosophy in Conflict 154
CHAPTER VI: Voltaire versus Spinoza: The Enlightenment as a Basic Duality of Philosophical Systems 199
CHAPTER VII: Conclusion 221
Notes 243
Index 267

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