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“In a passage penned for the Abbé Raynal’s Histoire philosophique des deux Indes, lines written shortly after the Revolution’s onset in 1776, Diderot, confident that they would succeed, urges the insurgents to remember in building their new world not to allow inequality of wealth to become too great. He admonished them to “fear a too unequal division of wealth resulting in a small number of opulent citizens and a multitude of citizens living in misery, from which there arises the arrogance of the one and the abasement of the other.”13”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“Without classifying radical thought as a Spinozistic tendency, combining one-substance doctrine or philosophical monism with democracy and a purely secular moral philosophy based on equality, the basic mechanics of eighteenth-century controversy, thought, and polemics cannot be grasped.”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“Priestley, who was well known on both sides of the Atlantic for his researches into electricity and chemistry, called for the total abolition of the aristocracy on the grounds that this would prove a moral blessing not only for society but also for the nobility themselves.42”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“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”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“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.”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“The central tenet in politics of the radical philosophes was that a good government is one where legislation and the lawmakers lay aside all theological criteria and ensure by means of laws that education, individual interest, political debate, and society’s moral values “concourir,” as Helvétius, a leading French materialist,”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“Radical Enlightenment, then, was the primary intellectual source of the dynamic rhetoric of democratic egalitarianism propagated during the twenty years before 1789 by the numerous disciples of Diderot, Helvétius, and d’Holbach, most obviously Mirabeau, Brissot, Condorcet, Cerisier, Raynal, Maréchal, Cloots, and Volney, besides Jefferson, Paine, Priestley, and Price, but also including numerous other British, American, Dutch, and German as well as French writers.”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“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.”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“If one wished to attract the support of governments, churchmen, and magistrates in the eighteenth century one had to couch proposals for reform in terms of support for monarchy, for the existing social hierarchy based on privilege, and for the existing moral norms—in other words, propose only slight repairs to the existing edifice. Every Enlightenment writer had to choose either broadly to endorse the existing structure of law, authority, and privilege, whatever incidental repairs he proposed, or else denounce them more sweepingly.”
Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy
“that if we are to interpret the accounts of marvellous events and miracles in the Bible correctly, one must first acquire the right kind of philological and historical expertise, ‘one must know the beliefs of those who originally related, and left us written records of them’ and learn to distinguish between what the people believed and what actually impressed itself on their perceptions. For if we do not, then we shall ourselves inevitably confuse the beliefs of the time with the people’s understanding of what impressed itself on their senses and be unable to distinguish between what really happened and what were ‘imaginary things and nothing but prophetic representations’.29 For many things are related in the Bible as real, and were believed to be real, but which were nevertheless merely imaginary, or understood through poetic imagery such as that God, the ‘Supreme Being, came down from Heaven and that Mount Sinai smoked because God descended upon it surrounded by fire’. Precisely because the wondrous events related in Scripture were believed to be real, and were couched in terms adjusted to the ignorant and superstitious minds of the multitude ‘proiende non debent ut reales a philosophis accipi’ (they should not therefore be accepted as real by philosophers). Spinoza rounds off the chapter with a further point concerning the metaphors and figures of speech habitual in Biblical Hebrew. ‘He who does not pay sufficient attention to this’, he warns, ‘will ascribe to Scripture many miracles which the Biblical writers never intended as such, thus completely failing to grasp not only happenings and miracles as they really occurred but also the meaning of the writers of the Sacred Books.’30”
Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
“He returned one last time to this life-long theme, now fully revealing his philosophy, in the appendix to Part I of his masterpiece, the Ethics. In general, Spinoza’s style here is more austere and detached than in the Tractatus, but when he reverts to the theme of miracles something of the rebelliousness and emotion which fired his youth surge up once again. He has shown, he claims, that ‘things could not have been produced by God in any other way, or in any other order, than how they have been produced’ (Ethics 1, Prop. XXXIII) and that therefore there never have been, and never could be, any wondrous happenings or miracles.32 However, most people refuse to accept this and persecute whoever points it out: ‘one who seeks the true causes of miracles and is eager, like a scholar, to understand natural things and not wonder at them like a fool, is generally denounced as an impious heretic by those the people revere as interpreters of Nature and the gods.’ This they do because they ‘know that if ignorance, or rather stupidity, is removed, then foolish wonder, the only means they have of justifying and sustaining their authority, goes with it’.33 Here, in embryo, is the concept of priestcraft as a system of organized imposture and deception, rooted in credulousness and superstition, which loomed so large in the subsequent history of the Enlightenment and was to receive massive amplification in the books on ancient oracles and priestcraft published by Blount, Van Dale, and Fontenelle in the 1680s.”
Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
“Perhaps nowhere else, though, was the contribution of the private ‘universal’ library to the progress of the early Enlightenment, moderate and radical, more crucial than in Italy, where the impact of censorship, the unavailability of foreign books, and the decay of the great libraries all conspired to create a situation in which a few medium and large private libraries containing rare foreign works and ‘libri prohibiti’ provided the indispensable channel through which flowed the philosophical ferment of the late seventeenth century, and later. In Naples in the 1680s and 1690s, the library of Giuseppe Valletta served as the headquarters and discussion forum of the philosophical novatores.71 More impressive still, and vital to the nurturing of the Early Enlightenment in Florence, were the 25,000 books and 2,873 manuscripts belonging to Magliabechi, a bibliomaniac who sought, read, wrote about, and discussed books to the point of neglecting everything else, even his personal appearance.72 A bibliographical titan, who influenced many without ever having published a book himself, and in whose honour a celebratory medal was cast, portraying him seated, holding a book, Magliabechi, like Naudé and Leibniz, considered universality—the encompassing of the whole of human thought and knowledge”
Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
“Consequently, the more we know and understand an emotion better, the more it is under our control and the less does the mind suffer from it. This leads to the famous doctrine: ‘in so far as the mind understands all things to be necessary, it has a greater power over the affects, or is less acted on by them’ (V, Prop. VI). Thus, for example, to lay aside fear ‘we must recount and frequently imagine the common dangers of life, and how they can be best avoided and overcome by presence of mind and strength of character.’46”
Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
“He rebukes critics of ‘those who cultivate the natural sciences’, who prefer to remain ignorant of natural causes, because to close one’s mind to science is to shut oneself off from the only certain and reliable criterion of truth we possess.5 Nothing happens or exists beyond Nature’s laws and hence there can be no miracles; and those that are believed, or alleged, to have occurred, in fact had natural causes which at the time men were unable to grasp. Characteristically, he seeks natural causes for every phenomenon which has impressed or frightened men, including humanity’s love of miracles itself. The appeal of ‘miracles’ is so great, he observes, that men have not ceased to this day to invent miracles with a view to convincing people they are more beloved of God than others, and are the final cause of God’s creation and continuous direction of the world.6 Contriving and invoking ‘miracles’ and persuading others to believe in them, is thus itself a natural phenomenon, as is the habit of those who proclaim and elaborate ‘miracles’ to denounce as ‘impious’ those who seek to explain them as natural events.7 At the core of Spinoza’s philosphy, then, stands the contention that ‘nothing happens in Nature that does not follow from her laws, that her laws cover everything that is conceived even by the divine intellect, and that Nature observes a fixed and immutable order,’ that is, that the same laws of motion, and laws of cause and effect, apply in all contexts and everywhere.”
Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750


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