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

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

by Jonathan Israel
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
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A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy

Democracy, free thought and expression, religious tolerance, individual liberty, political self-determination of peoples, sexual and racial equality—these values have firmly entered the mainstream in the decades since they were enshrined in the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. But if these ideals no longer seem radical today, their origin was very radical indeed—far more so than most historians have been willing to recognize. In A Revolution of the Mind, Jonathan Israel, one of the world's leading historians of the Enlightenment, traces the philosophical roots of these ideas to what were the least respectable strata of Enlightenment thought—what he calls the Radical Enlightenment.

Originating as a clandestine movement of ideas that was almost entirely hidden from public view during its earliest phase, the Radical Enlightenment matured in opposition to the moderate mainstream Enlightenment dominant in Europe and America in the eighteenth century. During the revolutionary decades of the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s, the Radical Enlightenment burst into the open, only to provoke a long and bitter backlash. A Revolution of the Mind shows that this vigorous opposition was mainly due to the powerful impulses in society to defend the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, empire, and racial hierarchy—principles linked to the upholding of censorship, church authority, social inequality, racial segregation, religious discrimination, and far-reaching privilege for ruling groups.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691142005
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/26/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

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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