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The Enlightenment, Volume 2: The Science of Freedom

(The Enlightenment: An Interpretation #2)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  8 reviews

The Science of Freedom completes Peter Gay's brilliant reinterpretation of the Enlightenment of the philosophes begun in The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism. In that book, Mr. Gray analyzed the struggle in qhich the philosophes pitted classical pagan thought against their Christian heritage. In the present book, which can be read independently as a social histor

Paperback, 705 pages
Published February 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 1969)
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Gay provides an interesting dialectical model: the philosophes opposed ancient paganism to medieval Christianity in order to create an autonomous "modern paganism" (vol. I). And his writing is beautiful.

Ultimately, though, his picture of the Enlightenment is thoroughly teleological and at times cartoonish. In Gay's account, for example, deism and natural law are just an earlier stage in the evolution of atheism and utilitarianism (I, p. 18). (Their respective exponents would have been very surpr
Jon Zerin
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, scholarly, yet thoroughly entertaining volume. Gay is the finest social, philosophical historian I've read. He is also as deferential to his sources as he is authoritative on his subject matter.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Volume 2. Here Gay attempts to construct the social setting in which Enlightenment thought took off. Enlightenment thinkers did not come up with their ideas in a vacuum; they were influenced by the rise of capitalism, changes in technology, food production, etc.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
It would have been better to have called the book : The French Enlightenment, as it is mainly about French Philosophes and then also mainly about Voltaire. It this is it very nice, educational and stuffed with details and references. Bit it is a bit dated by now.
Praveen Kishore
A classic, a must for everyone!
Igor Faynshteyn
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second and final installment of Peter Gay's most erudite, learned and comprehensive treatment of the Enlightenment in Western Europe. The first volume focused largely on what the "little flock of philosophes" read and thought. This volume's focus is more centered around the implementation of their ideas into discernible programs in science, art, education and politics.

Like the first volume, this volume is not organized by chronology, but rather by topical treatment. It focuses largel
John Jr.
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This and its companion volume are together a good deal longer than Ernst Cassirer's study (The Philosophy of the Enlightenment) but are just as valuable. Having read these at some distance in time, I won't attempt now to say anything more about them. ...more
M. A.  Noeth
Yay, for revisits to the bookshelf!
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The son of a glassware maker, Peter Joachim Fröhlich grew up in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. Escaping in 1938 with the rest of his family on the last boat of refugees admitted to Cuba, he gained entry with them to the United States two years later, whereupon he changed his name to Gay. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1946 and earned a master's and doctorate in history from Col ...more

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The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (2 books)
  • The Enlightenment, Volume 1: The Rise of Modern Paganism

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