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Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophers, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew al ...more
Paperback, 834 pages
Published September 12th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2001)
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Thore Husfeldt
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I abandoned this book after a few hundred pages. It makes me increasingly angry. It’s also unenlightening.

How can one write a book about the enlightenment that is so unwilling to enlighten? I’m baffled how so much erudition and scholarship can be poured into a tome that reads like a PhD thesis with an audience of 1. Mind you, I like books that are challenging and flatter the reader’s intelligence. But I’d rather have my groin pummeled by Spinoza’s femur than subject myself to yet ano
John Warner
Aug 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: dorks and nerds
this erudite but meandering and interminable volume makes, i think, three central claims. they are: (1) that something like a unified enlightenment (as opposed to the multiple "enlightenments" that historians talk about now) existed in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, (2) that there existed "radical" and "moderate" strains of enlightenment thought, and (3) that Spinoza was the most radical, the most comprehensive, and the most influential intellectual figure of this period.

Aug 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Appearing in 2001, and weighing in at over 800 pages, this is the first of a projected three volumes on the Enlightenment. In this first volume, Israel constructs the basic argument that is foundational for the second and third volumes, which together present a comprehensive survey of the Enlightenment as a whole. He sets out to supplant Peter Gay's two-volume work, which has been the standard treatment of the Enlightenment for three decades. Reviewers are abuzz.

Back in 1981, Margar
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: European Historians, Classical liberals, philosophers
Recommended to Michael by: Terrence MacIntosh
This is one of the few books I read in grad school that I really feel I benefited from being exposed to. When I return to it, I am surprised by how rich and compelling it is, in spite of its length and density. Each time, I find new things to be fascinated by, as if it anticipates my growth and changing interests, and writes new chapters of itself in my absence.
It is essentially an intellectual history of secular thought, answering the perplexing question: How did modern secular thought be
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A strong thesis from Israel - that the celebrated thinkers in the post-Renaissance western world are all essentially the intellectual progeny of Spinoza - but one which is remarkably researched and, given the weightiness of the topic, clearly conveyed. Most Anglo-Americans will suggest it was Hobbes who ushered in the radical enlightenment, but even he had to admit that with the publication of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (and the posthumous Ethics), the Dutchman had 'out-thrown him by a b ...more
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Back in the day, you weren't a REAL philosopher unless you held illegal underground reading circles and risked being burned at the stake for reading Spinoza.
Robin Friedman
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Spinoza, Enlightenment, And The Love Of Learning

Jonathan Israel has written an erudite, extensive, and inspiring study on a seminal moment in Western thought, commonly known as the Age of Enlightnment.In short, the Enlightenment marks a change from a thought and society that was theologically focused to thought and society that were secular and scientific in character. This period and this transition has been much studied, but Israel has many new insights to offer. In addition, he wr
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Intellectual Histories
Shelves: philosophy, history
This detailed intellectual history contrasts the "radical" Enlightenment of Spinoza with the moderate version represented by John Locke. The author documents a five-way battle for the minds of modern people and shows how the most radical ideas of the era found their way into the High Enlightenment. The focus is on Europe, but the implications for the new American state are obvious, helping us over here sort out what is meant by the expression that the United States is a "product of the Enlighten ...more
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My 'bible'. Great read, great reread, great reference book, great to leaf through on a rainy day. In short: great.
Otto Lehto
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is no business like clandestine philosophy business.

"How I love this noble man
More than I can say with words.
Still, I fear he remains alone
With his shining halo." - Albert Einstein

Jonathan Israel's monumental tome is a rich and valuable compendium of historical research. It highlights, with staggering erudition and zealous advocacy, the somewhat neglected importance of Spinoza and the "Spinozists" (a rather loose grouping of writers, polemicists, p
Gökalp Aral
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Konunun bir sonucu olarak çok fazla alıntı içermesine karşın okunurluk açısından güzel bir kitaptı; konusu ve yazarın bakış açısı da. Daha önceden kendi içimde sezdiğim bazı şeyleri bana açıkça göstermiş oldu: Aydınlanmacı düşünürlerin içlerindeki ayrılığa (radikal/ılımlı) güzelce bir ışık tutmakla birlikte Rousseau, Voltaire gibi düşünürlerin karşısında Paine, Spinoza, D'Holbach gibi düşünürleri koyuyor yazar. Din açısından, eşitlikçilik, ekonomiye bakış ve daha pek çok konuda düşüncelerini kar ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This book is dedicated to three propositions: (1) There were two Enlightenments, one radical and the other moderate (2) the Radical branch does not have its origins in England (as we have all been taught in Philosophy 101 in the English-speaking world) (3) the Radical branch has its origin in Spinoza.

This is all ultimately debatable. It is all a matter of emphasis. How important was Hobbes on the continent vs. Spinoza? How important was Diderot vs. Rousseau for the French revolution? Recent sch
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
A reference book disguised as a history book. Good if you are a scholar researching the Enlightenment, but terrible for the general reader. I don't accept the author's concept of "radical", even in relation to Spinoza. Sounds more like academic spin than accurate historical context. You will gain 10 times more insight into the period from other books half this size.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The authoritative work on the Enlightenment.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’m not going to pretend I’ve read all or most of this incredibly detailed brick of a book. As a student at Berkeley a few years ago I picked it up at Half Priced Books for $20, drawn by my perpetual, yet casual fascination with the European Enlightenment. I guess he is trying to argue here that Spinoza is The Godfather of the radical enlightenment? which sounds interesting but I don’t really give a shit whether he’s right or not, I just love how much detail about the era and it’s thinkers are i ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stupendously detailed and very much a deep dive into the interconnectedness of the Early Enlightenment. Israel's work helped me define more clearly the international nature of the "Republic of Letters" with clandestine philosophical manuscripts changing hands frequently at book fairs. Israel also introduces a whole cast of secondary philosophes I had never encountered previously: Fontenelle, Van den Enden, La Mettrie, and so on. These figures were influential in communicating the ideas of the En ...more
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
Erudite, scholarly, fascinating, and intriguing. A recommended read.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Unimpeachable, magisterial scholarship. A dense, and deep intellectual examination of modern enlightenment. That being said, it can be difficult to read and digest; the prose is articulate, but at times tedious with sentences that should end sooner, and many passages of quotations in French that are not translated (oddly enough, translations are presented when other languages are quoted). When all said and done however, I enjoyed it, and recognize its importance despite its flaws.
Saverio Mariani
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filosofia
Una lunga, spesso difficoltosa, lettura.
Grande pregio di questo volume (forse troppo lungo) è sicuramente l'erudizione.
La posizione filosofica è condivisibile (si tenta di dimostrare come Spinoza sia il vero cardine dell'Illuminismo radicale che ha caratterizzato la modernità, e soprattutto gli anni fra il 1650 e il 1750), ma è spesso diluita in discorsi lunghi e faticosi.
Certo: un libro per specialisti, o comunque studiosi di Filosofia. Peccato non sia stato ancora interamente trad
James Igoe
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book and ideas, with some flaws I found irritating. First, some quotes are provided without translations - I wish my French was better, and I have no real understanding of Dutch - and it would have been nice to link to the translation, if not had it displayed in the text. Second, the history is very detailed, a bit too much for my taste, and I would have preferred a somewhat higher-level view of the actions of the various actors in the enlightenment drama, although as I pored on, the c ...more
Paul Foley
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Enlightenment values are under attack not only by gun wielding religious fanatics but by perfectly well meaning people who think it is unacceptable to challenge others deeply held beliefs, no matter how irrational or counter factual those ideas may be. This meticulously researched and erudite volume is a timely reminder of how important this revolution in ideas was, and how central it is to our modern world.
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Solid work, full of detail and a great read. Israel presents only one great these: the enlightenment began much earlier than always assumed, and Spinoza was the hub from which everything grew! This theory is so fanatically formulated, again and again, that in the end I turned a bit sceptical. But that does not mean that there is no basis of truth in it. I just can't judge.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comps
Good introduction radicalism within Enlightenment thinking. Yet it could have been easier for reader to follow if the writer was more systematic in his approach. It seems to me that he himself was not sure whether he was writing about Enlightenment in general (and its radicalism) or the radical philosophes in the movement. Also, his criteria for being "radical" is somewhat sketchy.
J.M. Hushour
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
A sturdy and vigorous rimming of Baruch "B-Bag" Spinoza who, according to Israel, was the centerfold for a 1650-1750 orgiastic Radical Enlightenment which shattered the European mindset. An immense work which pulses with a life all its own, detailed and full of much that the average person wouldn't need to know.
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Das Buch gibt einen guten Überblick zur Debatte bzgl der von Jonathan Israel stark gemachten These, dass diese von eine moderaten Aufklärung zu unterscheiden ist. Einen Stern Abzug gebe ich, da ich das Buch für keine gute Einführung in das Thema halte, wie es im Vorwort versprochen wird. Die Lektüre von Israels Werk davor ist sehr zu empfehlen.
Nov 17, 2015 marked it as to-read
Too many of his key points are solely described by quotes entirely in French (the one language he never translates)*.

* Probably hyperbole but is the impression.

Like his later book on the revolution, once you get past the early chapters he settles down - yes reading again.
Ted Morgan
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This as the descriptions here report and more. It details more than most of us might need or even want to know but the journey is a fantastic one and well worth the effort. This is a work to which one returns with pleasure.
Jim Talbott
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I will admit that this was a bit more than I wanted or needed and it took me forever to read, but it is a very detailed account of the early enlightenment and the struggle for supremicy between Spinoza, Newton, Wolf/Leibnitz, and the Cartesians.
f t
May 28, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: geschichte
Jonathan I. Israel, Martin Mulsow (Hrsg.): Radikalaufklärung. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 2014, ISBN 978-3-518-29653-0.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Voor de studie gelezen, is voor iedereen de moeite waard om te lezen, mooie blik op een belangrijk tijdvak in onze vaderlandse geschiedenis
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flow from Plato 1 2 Jul 20, 2018 06:45AM  

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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 f
“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” 0 likes
“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.” 0 likes
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