The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy



The Author Of The Celebrated The Dream Of Reason Vividly Explains The Rise Of Modern Thought From Descartes To Rousseau Western Philosophy Is Now Two And A Half Millennia Old, But Much Of It Came In Just Two Staccato Bursts, Each Lasting Only About Years In His Landmark Survey Of Western Philosophy From The Greeks To The Renaissance, The Dream Of Reason, Anthony Gottlieb Documented The First Of These, Which Came In The Athens Of Socrates, Plato, And Aristotle Now, In The Dream Of Enlightenment, Gottlieb Expertly Navigates The 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 S To The Eve Of The French Revolution Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, And Hume All Made Their MarkThe Dream Of Enlightenment Tells Their Story And That Of The Birth Of Modern PhilosophyAs 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 Is Government Actually For Such Questions Remain Our QuestionsYet 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 While Engagingly Explaining Their Arguments And Assessing Their Legacy The Dream Of Enlightenment Creates A Sweeping Account Of What They Amounted To, And Why We Are Still In Their DebtThe Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy

Anthony Gottlieb is a British writer, former Executive Editor of The Economist, historian of ideas, and the author of The Dream of Reason He was educated at Cambridge University and has held visiting fellowships at All Souls College, Oxford, and Harvard University He has taught at the CUNY Graduate Center and the New School in New York, and been a visiting scholar at New York University and fellow at the Cullman Centre for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library He is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the series editor of The Routledge Guides to the Great Books.

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  • The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy
  • Anthony Gottlieb
  • 11 January 2019

10 thoughts on “The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy

  1. says:

    Ours may not be the best of all possible worlds but these pioneers helped to make it an intellectually adventurous and, as d Alembert suggested, a less ignorant one.Dream was a most welcome birthday present for me personally its publication is also timely given a world which sorely needs to examine its present trajectory It is a survey by a retired journalist, a laymanthan apt to do the heavy lifting about the advocates of a mechanized world, the stirring time in our early Modern period Ours may not be the best of all possible worlds but these pioneers helped to make it an intellectually adventurous and, as d Alembert suggested, a less ignorant one.Dream was a most welcome birthday present for me personally its publication is also timely given a world which sorely needs to examine its present trajectory It is a survey by a retired journalist, a laymanthan apt to do the heavy lifting about the advocates of a mechanized world, the stirring time in our early Modern period when the ghosts under our bed and the threat of Old Scratch could be outdistanced The noble products of this were the technology and the trappings of tolerance unfortunately, it is an ongoing project Voltaire is included as foil to many Leibniz, Hume and Rousseau, but Voltaire captures something human and timeless, much as his Candide, when pondering the fortunes of the New World, quips it may not be better but at least it will be different If only I am blessed with an adequate familiarity of all the thinkers cited My chief course of improvement will be to readHume Please forgive the possible vanity, but I often feel like a Hobbes or Spinoza, though I lack the talent and ambition of either Leibniz had by far the coolest life and Rousseau was quite an asshole

  2. says:

    One thing I appreciate about this book is Gottlieb attempted to correct what he saw as common misunderstandings concerning certain philosophers ideas, thus the section on Descartes, Hobbs and Spinoza were really interesting and contained new material that I had not heard in other histories of philosophy The author s disdain for John Locke seemed very evident, yet, it was still worthwhile to hear criticism of a philosopher of which I ve read and of whom I am fond To me the most disappointing p One thing I appreciate about this book is Gottlieb attempted to correct what he saw as common misunderstandings concerning certain philosophers ideas, thus the section on Descartes, Hobbs and Spinoza were really interesting and contained new material that I had not heard in other histories of philosophy The author s disdain for John Locke seemed very evident, yet, it was still worthwhile to hear criticism of a philosopher of which I ve read and of whom I am fond To me the most disappointing part of the book was the section on Hume, this is where Gottlieb s confirmation bias is on full display After the continual criticism for Locke, one is struck how there is not even a hint of criticism of anything Hume had to say, though plenty of his ideas, such as Hume s basing morality in our feelings, cry out for critique It s not hard to gather that Gottlieb is an atheist and Hume is one of his heroes Every argument of Hume against religion is set forth as an absolute knock out and irrefutable argument that once and for all showed the irrationality of all religious writing that should all be thrown into the flames , the absurdity of believing in miracles for they violate the laws of nature , and the nonsense of the theistic argument for a Designer Not once does Gottlieb even slightly elude to the substantial problems other philosophers have found and the numerous responses to Hume s arguments How according to the criteria Hume set out his own works should be thrown into the flames How miracles are not violations of the laws of nature and how one can rationally deduce that the contingent universe suggest the need of something that is eternally necessary Atheist seem to be just as unsketpical when in comes to how credulously they accept anything that confirms what they wish to be true, as the Christian fundamentalist is when embracing what confirms what they believe is true It appears to me that Hume is a secular saint, and his adoration is like a Catholics regard for st Frances, no atheist will ever entertain a doubt about his sacred words which set the world free from God

  3. says:

    What has the Enlightenment ever done for us This is an important question and the title of the last chapter of this book My biased answer would include human rights, democratic government, personal freedom, and separation of church and state I think it is no great exaggeration to say that the Enlightenment marks the beginning of a sea change in thought that rejected tyranny, acknowledged the rights of common people, and helped create the intellectual environment that made our modern world pos What has the Enlightenment ever done for us This is an important question and the title of the last chapter of this book My biased answer would include human rights, democratic government, personal freedom, and separation of church and state I think it is no great exaggeration to say that the Enlightenment marks the beginning of a sea change in thought that rejected tyranny, acknowledged the rights of common people, and helped create the intellectual environment that made our modern world possible In this relatively short book 244 pages not counting notes , Gottlieb summarizes key points of the Enlightenment s greatest thinkers Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, Gottfried Leibniz, and David Hume, with due mention to others who supported or opposed them It shows how these philosophical pioneers began to question convention, challenge authority, and propose alternatives Some of their ideas may seem strange, backward, or even outrageous to us now, but they were constrained by the knowledge and beliefs of their time, as we all are Unlike today, or at least not to the same extent, they also had to be cautious of the authority they were calling into question The fact that we today canfreely express our thoughts without undue fear of reprisal is also, I think, a lasting gift of the Enlightenment.Gottleib s writing is clean, precise, and easily comprehensible The philosophers he has chosen, and the points he selects from each of them, are appropriate to subject I recommend this to anyone interested in cultural evolution and the progress of human thought

  4. says:

    Overall this is a nice overview of early modern European philosophy, with a relatively digestible mix of biography, history, and philosophy although certainly not enough philosophy to substitute for actually reading the philosophers discussed I have some criticismson those in a bit , but this is a helpful thing to read if you ve already read some of the figures featured I d stress that this is not a book to read in lieu of reading the primary sources you have to have some basic fami Overall this is a nice overview of early modern European philosophy, with a relatively digestible mix of biography, history, and philosophy although certainly not enough philosophy to substitute for actually reading the philosophers discussed I have some criticismson those in a bit , but this is a helpful thing to read if you ve already read some of the figures featured I d stress that this is not a book to read in lieu of reading the primary sources you have to have some basic familiarity with them to get much out of this book Neither is this a book for specialists, but I doubt specialists need my Goodreads review to tell them that.I read this to add to my background and framing for teaching a class in early modern European philosophy for instance, Gottlieb s framing of Leibniz as a traditionalist reacting to Spinoza s heterodoxy helped my students wrap their minds around these difficult figures.I have two main criticisms First, Gottlieb s presentation of philosophy is quite Eurocentric Focusing on Europe in the book isn t a problem, since he is after all focusing explicitly on European philosophers That s not my complaint My complaint is pretending that European philosophy is all there is I found one claim in particular to be breathtakingly ignorant Gottlieb claims that Locke gave the first sustained philosophical treatment of the issue of personal identity p 152 This claim is presented as if Buddhist and Brahmanical philosophers in India had not been debating the intricacies of personal identity for nearly 2,000 before Locke wrote the Essay That such culturally myopic claims are frequently made by experts in the field of philosophy does nothing to mitigate their wrongness.Second, there s no chapter on Berkeley and very little discussion of him As a Berkeley fan, I find this inexcusable I grant that Berkeley isn t everyone s cup of tea Still, Bayle and the French Philosophes merit their own chapters and Berkeley is at least as fun to read and as influential as they are, especially for Hume and Kant Speaking of Kant, there s no chapter on Kant, either, which bothers me slightly less because I can see a case to be made that Kant is the culmination of the early modern period and watershed of a new era of European thought Apparently Gottlieb is working on another book that will start with Kant Still, some sort of conclusion pointing the way to Kant may have helped wrap this one up

  5. says:

    I ve been reading this book for a few months now for my philosophy Meetup group We ve been meeting monthly, and each month we discussed just one chapter as each chapter covers a different philosopher from the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th 18th centuries It was a fascinating historical voyage Anthony Gottlieb does justice explaining what each eminent philosopher stood for, what their prevailing works argued, and what their lives were like Gottlieb helps you put on your history goggles to s I ve been reading this book for a few months now for my philosophy Meetup group We ve been meeting monthly, and each month we discussed just one chapter as each chapter covers a different philosopher from the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th 18th centuries It was a fascinating historical voyage Anthony Gottlieb does justice explaining what each eminent philosopher stood for, what their prevailing works argued, and what their lives were like Gottlieb helps you put on your history goggles to see these historical men from an appropriate and engaging perspective

  6. says:

    An OK primer to the Age of Enlightenment from Descartes to Hume, though a bit shallow for those withbackground Gottlieb likes sweeping summaries, and contrasting wrong interpretations of a given thinker with a quote or anecdote that disproves them, giving a consistent picture which perhaps belies the changing and contradictory nature of their work.

  7. says:

    Nice overview If you are already somewhat familiar with these philosophers it is still a useful refresher Gottlieb offers the most payoff by trying to straighten out many misconceptions about what they wrote and said A prep for tackling the new intellectual biography of Hume.

  8. says:

    This is a great followup to Gottlieb s book about mostly Greek Philosophy It s maybe a bit on the short side, and Gottlieb cherry picks a few enlightenment philosophers to focus on rather than attempting to be at all comprehensive He leaves Kant out, for example, which feels like a mistake Maybe he ll talk about him in the next volume Each chapter is essentially an essay on a different thinker and they are all very well done I particularly enjoyed the essay on Leibniz In the past, my bra This is a great followup to Gottlieb s book about mostly Greek Philosophy It s maybe a bit on the short side, and Gottlieb cherry picks a few enlightenment philosophers to focus on rather than attempting to be at all comprehensive He leaves Kant out, for example, which feels like a mistake Maybe he ll talk about him in the next volume Each chapter is essentially an essay on a different thinker and they are all very well done I particularly enjoyed the essay on Leibniz In the past, my brain would glaze over as soon as I read any mention of monads or optimism, but Gottlieb made his philosophy both interesting and comprehensible I look forward to the next volume in this series

  9. says:

    As interesting as the first book He does a fast, entertaining overview of pertinent philosophers Looking forward to the next installment.

  10. says:

    A wonderful series of portraits, and introductions to the work and thought of, the great Enlightenment philosophers Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and the French philosophes taken as a kind of crew though of course, Rousseau doesn t fit in with the rest of the gang, nor does he want to The author s biases must be similar to my own, because I was as much taken with the chapters on Spinoza and Hume as I have been previously with those saints of irreligiosity and my dislikes of Loc A wonderful series of portraits, and introductions to the work and thought of, the great Enlightenment philosophers Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and the French philosophes taken as a kind of crew though of course, Rousseau doesn t fit in with the rest of the gang, nor does he want to The author s biases must be similar to my own, because I was as much taken with the chapters on Spinoza and Hume as I have been previously with those saints of irreligiosity and my dislikes of Locke and Rousseau were reinforced This is a beautifully written book the immediate consequence of listening to it I did the audio for me was to grab Bertrand Russell s History of Western Philosophy and start listening to that

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