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

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  120 ratings  ·  14 reviews
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--fa ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published January 7th 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published 2009)
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Esteban del Mal
1/27/10: Spinoza sighting! Can't wait to get to this one.


Awww. Look at little, sweet, innocent Esteban, circa early 2010 up there, back before he read this. The abbreviated anticipation is almost palpable.

What a chump.

Shitty books are shitty for different shitty reasons. This one is shitty because it deals foremost with philosophy. Philosophy. Meditate upon the word for a minute. Do you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of a bunch of white, twenty-something males that look like they ju
Jonathan Israel has written some Very Big Books about the Enlightenment that I hope to read someday. Unfortunately, time pressures and work have forced me to make do with this 300 page summary/manifesto of his 2400 page argument.

As far as I can tell, his argument is based upon three main points: the history of the Enlightenment has its roots in the 17th century and the arguments of Spinoza; the Enlightenment as we know it is an international, not just national phenomenon that can be further defi
I'd love to read Israel's enormous books on the subject, but I'll try his short version first. The type is really big, so this book is even shorter than its page length implies.

Israel makes three big arguments:

1) The Enlightenment ought to be understood/studied as two competing Enlightenments - the Radical (Diderot, D'Holbach, et al) vs. the Moderate (Voltaire, Hume, et al) - rather than a set of distinct national phenomena.
2) The Radical Enlightenment is rooted in Spinoza and Bayle... essential
This book in many ways amounts to an abstract or summary of his brilliant (and quite lengthy) trilogy on the Enlightenment (Radical Enlightenment, Enlightenment Contested, and Democratic Enlightenment), all of which I've read and enjoyed over the past few years as I've studied the Enlightenment.

As with all of his books they are informative and quite readable if you're into 2-inch-thick non-fiction titles covering a fairly obscure but incredibly important process in Western civilization. :
This book summarises some of Jonathan Israel's recent work on the enlightenment - there are two 1000 page volumes (both under 25 - what a bargain OUP!) and I think another one is on the way. This short volume necessarily skips a lot of detail and mainly focuses on the differences between the moderate and radical enlightenments in the later, immediately pre-French revolution period of about 1750-1790. Israel argues that new 'radical enlightenment' ideas combined with longstanding social and polit ...more
Heather Stein
Apr 26, 2010 Heather Stein rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Heather by: D. Bell
This book is so polemical i am had trouble even managing to get through it. The basic premise of a radical and moderate Enlightenment seems forced. The end of Diderot's life is much less radical than Israel would have us believe AND i am having problems with any definition of "moderate" Enlightenment figure that lumps Voltaire in with Sir Edmund Burke... Sir Edmund Burke the famed conservative whose Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Avoid reading. It will just get under your skin. Antoine
Measuring close to 3.000 pages, Jonathan Israel's trilogy on the Enlightenment (Radical Enlightenment (2001), Enlightenment Contested (2006), and Democratic Enlightenment (2011)) has been a great source on related topics - but I so far have not had the time, or indeed the courage, to read them cover to cover. I figured this much more manageable book would be a good way to familiarize myself with the major themes in the trilogy, and I think that, seen in that light, the book has served its purpos ...more
Charlie Huenemann
This is a nice, short overview of Israel's larger volumes. Israel's work is thoroughly researched and the claims he makes are both daring (at least among academic historians) and interesting. Reading this volume is a great way of getting some sense of major and minor players, the important philosophical differences among them, and the relation of ideas to the revolutions in America and France. In the end, I think his principal distinction, between the Radical and Moderate movements of Enlightenm ...more
Stuart Macalpine
And interesting account of the philosophical ideas leading up to the French Revolution. Spinoza emerges as a founding father of the ideas of the radical Enlightenment. The interesting thing is the extent to which our modern values are a product of this time. Specifically the kind of values we often hear talked about including democracy, equality, and freedom of conscience and speech. To a surprising extent these are only located within the radical Enlightenment and are not a mainstream part of p ...more
Steven  Godby
Solid book. However, the writing style is demanding.
An interesting look at the philosophy which gave rise to modern democracies. Well worth reading.
Jerry Hilts
A bit rambling at times, but fascinating none the less.
Peter A.  van Tilburg
Book gives a good overview about the Enlightment and more specific 2 parties the more moderate ones who wanted to fit the ideas in the existing order and the revolutionary party who realises that fitting in contradicts with the basic ideas of the Enlightment.
Interesting to see that some ideas such as ' the reason' are not defined and more or less accepted as general truths.
Alexander Murray-Watters
Needs more detail. Fortunately, the author has written three massive tomes on the same topic.
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  • Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
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  • A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment
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  • The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters
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  • التنوير
  • Spinoza: A Life
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime
  • Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution
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Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights of Man to Robespierre Spinoza: Theological-Political Treatise (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) The Expansion of Tolerance: Religion in Dutch Brazil (1624-1654) Locke, Spinoza and the philosophical debate concerning toleration in the early enlightenment (c. 1670-c. 1750) Dutch Jewry: Its History and Secular Culture (1500-2000)

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“un-Hobbesain, Spinozistic idea that the equality of man in the state of nature, far from being dissolved, is carried over and reinforced in society.” 0 likes
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