Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy” as Want to Read:
A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  163 Ratings  ·  17 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
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published January 7th 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Revolution of the Mind, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Revolution of the Mind

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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
Jun 09, 2014 Hadrian rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2013 Don rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
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. :
Billy McCoy
Jan 24, 2016 Billy McCoy rated it it was amazing
Excellent book.
Apr 04, 2010 Grace rated it really liked it
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 did not like it
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
Apr 27, 2014 Charlie Huenemann rated it liked it
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
Mar 07, 2016 Alan rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook, philosophy
I hated the audio. A long recitation of names and titles. British and French accent didn't help. Very hard to follow. Maybe the text version would work.
Steven  Godby
Nov 25, 2014 Steven Godby rated it really liked it
Solid book. However, the writing style is demanding.
Nov 14, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the philosophy which gave rise to modern democracies. Well worth reading.
Jerry Hilts
Jan 26, 2014 Jerry Hilts rated it really liked it
A bit rambling at times, but fascinating none the less.
Peter A.  van Tilburg
Aug 13, 2013 Peter A. van Tilburg rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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.
Paula Wright
Jul 22, 2016 Paula Wright rated it liked it
Hard going.
Feb 12, 2014 Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Needs more detail. Fortunately, the author has written three massive tomes on the same topic.
Leon is currently reading it
Sep 23, 2016
Rem marked it as to-read
Sep 18, 2016
Michael Rettig
Michael Rettig rated it really liked it
Sep 19, 2016
Daniel Dupont
Daniel Dupont marked it as to-read
Sep 17, 2016
Anne rated it it was amazing
Sep 12, 2016
Rachel Troy
Rachel Troy is currently reading it
Sep 11, 2016
Vanessa rated it did not like it
Sep 16, 2016
Bryan marked it as to-read
Sep 06, 2016
Hazwan Shukor
Hazwan Shukor is currently reading it
Sep 06, 2016
Stijn marked it as to-read
Sep 05, 2016
Michael B. Russell
Michael B. Russell rated it liked it
Sep 03, 2016
Kristen Tunison
Kristen Tunison rated it liked it
Aug 31, 2016
Daniel marked it as to-read
Aug 28, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Philosophy of the Enlightenment
  • The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism
  • A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment
  • The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments
  • The Portable Enlightenment Reader
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime
  • 1688: The First Modern Revolution
  • The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters
  • The Romantic Revolution
  • Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane History)
  • The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea
  • Spinoza: A Life
  • The Enlightenment التنوير
  • Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution
  • The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right
  • Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas
  • The Crisis of the European Mind
  • Age of Fracture
Jonathan Irvine Israel is a British writer on Dutch history, the Age of Enlightenment and European Jews. Israel was appointed as Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, in January 2001. He was previously Professor of Dutch History and Institutions at the University of London.

In recent years, Israel has focused his a
More about Jonathan I. Israel...

Share This Book

“Mirabeau held that the basic source of the threat to equality in the United States were the traditions and much cherished “prejudices” Americans had inherited from the English. The most damaging of these, in his opinion, were the Americans’ inexplicable love of aristocracy, formal and informal, and their boundless respect for (and willingness to pay high fees to) lawyers.15 Deference to men of rank and noble birth, however fundamental” 0 likes
“Lessing held that the highest goal, theoretical and practical, of those striving to bring enlightenment to humanity, and philosophy’s supreme gift to mankind, is to minimize as far as humanly possible the three principal causes of strife and division among men: religious differences, class differences, and national differences.” 0 likes
More quotes…