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The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of…
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The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy

by Anthony Gottlieb

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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 layman more than 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 read more Hume. 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. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
"The Dream of Enlightenment" discusses the key figures in the second great flowering of Western philosophy, in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe. It follows Gottlieb's earlier work, "The Dream of Reason", which covered the first flowering in ancient Greece. A third volume which will bring the series up to the present. "Enlightenment" is a worthy successor to "Reason", which is high praise indeed. Both books have a lot to teach the reader, and both do so in an eminently readable manner. Gottlieb's prose is crystal clear and frequently witty. The structure of the book -- in which key philosophers, starting with Descartes and ending with Voltaire, are discussed in the context of their times -- carries the narrative along. That presentation in historical context is amplified by brief biographical sketches and by some discussion of what contemporaries had to say about the personality of the philosopher in question. That was particularly valuable to me, because it gave the ideas under discussion a depth that they would lack in a contextless listing. A very valuable book: I look forward to Volume 3. ( )
  annbury | Jan 21, 2017 |
The author of the celebrated The Dream of
Reason vividly explains the rise of modern
thought from Descartes to Rousseau
Never has the story been told so well,' said the New York
Review of Books of Anthony Gottlieb's The Dream of Reason, an
'endlessly entertaining and frequently instructive' (Times
Literary Supplement) history of philosophy from the Greeks to
the Renaissance. This long-awaited sequel takes the story
through the century and a half when a string of extraordinary
thinkers including Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz,
Hume, and Rousseau remade Western philosophy in the
wake of religious upheaval and the rise of Galilean science.
What does the new science mean for our understanding of
ourselves and of God? How should one deal with religious
diversity? These questions remain our questions, but the
thinkers who first asked them did not live in our world. The
Dream of Enlightenment steps back into the shoes of these
frequently misunderstood philosophers, lucidly explains their
arguments, and assesses the Enlightenment's legacy.
Anthony Gottlieb is 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. He lives
in New York.
  pakeurobooks | Oct 20, 2016 |
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 can more freely 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.
( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
a very enjoyable book about a period that changed western cultural. the writer covers the great thinkers of that time period, both their lives and ideas. this time period is one of most favorate times ( )
  michaelbartley | Sep 24, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871404435, Hardcover)

The author of the classic The Dream of Reason vividly explains the rise of modern thought from Descartes to Rousseau.

“Never has the story been told so well,” said the New York Review of Books of Anthony Gottlieb's The Dream of Reason, an “endlessly entertaining and frequently instructive” (Times Literary Supplement) history of philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. This long-awaited sequel takes the story through the century and a half when a string of amateurs including Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Rousseau remade Western philosophy in the wake of religious upheaval and the rise of Galilean science. What does the new science mean for our understanding of ourselves and of God? How should one deal with religious diversity? These questions remain our questions, but the thinkers who first asked them did not live in our world. The Dream of Enlightenment steps back into the shoes of these frequently misunderstood philosophers, lucidly explains their arguments, and assesses the Enlightenment’s legacy.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 02 Mar 2016 15:44:45 -0500)

"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" -- dust jacket flap.… (more)

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