The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy

The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy

by Anthony Gottlieb


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One of Slate’s 10 Best Books of the Year

Anthony Gottlieb’s landmark The Dream of Reason and its sequel challenge Bertrand Russell’s classic as the definitive history of Western philosophy.

Western philosophy is now two and a half millennia old, but much of it came in just two staccato bursts, each lasting only about 150 years. In his landmark survey of Western philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, The Dream of Reason, Anthony Gottlieb documented the first burst, which came in the Athens of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Now, in his sequel, The Dream of Enlightenment, Gottlieb expertly navigates a second great explosion of thought, taking us to northern Europe in the wake of its wars of religion and the rise of Galilean science. In a relatively short period—from the early 1640s to the eve of the French Revolution—Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, and Hume all made their mark. The Dream of Enlightenment tells their story and that of the birth of modern philosophy.

As Gottlieb explains, all these men were amateurs: none had much to do with any university. They tried to fathom the implications of the new science and of religious upheaval, which led them to question traditional teachings and attitudes. What does the advance of science entail for our understanding of ourselves and for our ideas of God? How should a government deal with religious diversity—and what, actually, is government for? Such questions remain our questions, which is why Descartes, Hobbes, and the others are still pondered today.

Yet it is because we still want to hear them that we can easily get these philosophers wrong. It is tempting to think they speak our language and live in our world; but to understand them properly, we must step back into their shoes. Gottlieb puts readers in the minds of these frequently misinterpreted figures, elucidating the history of their times and the development of scientific ideas while engagingly explaining their arguments and assessing their legacy in lively prose.

With chapters focusing on Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Pierre Bayle, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau, and Voltaire—and many walk-on parts—The Dream of Enlightenment creates a sweeping account of what the Enlightenment amounted to, and why we are still in its debt.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631492969
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 08/08/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 215,942
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Anthony Gottlieb is the author of The Dream of Reason, a former executive editor of The Economist, and has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University and All Souls College, Oxford. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Times.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Kingdome of Darknesse ix

Chronological Chart xii

1 Starting Afresh: Descartes 1

2 The Monster of Malmesbury: Hobbes 36

3 A Breeze of the Future: Spinoza 85

4 Philosophy for the British: Locke 113

5 An Interlude on a Comet: Bayle 156

6 The Best of All Possible Compromises: Leibniz 163

7 A Treatise of Animal Nature: Hume 196

8 What Has the Enlightenment Ever Done for Us? Voltaire, Rousseau and the Philosophies 232

Notes 245

Suggestions for Further Reading 281

Acknowledgements 283

Index 285

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