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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  290 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Arguably the most decisive shift in the history of ideas in modern times was the complete demolition during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - in the wake of the Scientific Revolution - of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophes, culminating in Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. In this revolu ...more
Kindle Edition, 833 pages
Published July 18th 2002 by OUP Oxford (first published 2001)
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Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 become t
Thore Husfeldt
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 another page of
John Warner
Aug 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

(3) is the m
Aug 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, Margaret Jacob arg
robin friedman
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spinoza, Enlightenment, And The Love Of Learning

In "Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity", Jonathan Israel has written an erudite, extensive, and inspiring study on a seminal moment in Western thought, commonly known as the Age of Enlightenment .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
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Otto Lehto
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, philosophers and demagogues) for the radica
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
My 'bible'. Great read, great reread, great reference book, great to leaf through on a rainy day. In short: great.
Well, this man has certainly done his homework.

The scholarship is certainly exacting, as to how exactly Spinozism (or Spinosisme, as he continually refers to it, thanks to his habit of refusing to translate easily translatable French-language quotes, for seemingly no damn reason) and Cartesianism spread around Europe. I'll admit, it can be hard to care about at times -- what radical thinker got in what hot water in Augsburg or Utrecht and for what supposed offense to holiness. And sometimes the
Feb 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The authoritative work on the Enlightenment.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
James Igoe
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
J.M. Hushour
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.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jim Talbott
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ted Morgan
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 17, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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.
Pannill Camp
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nerds
Thorough publishing history of Enlightenment. Great reference.
Craig Bolton
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 by Jonathan I. Israel (2002)
Jerin Tahapary
Leibniz love of wisdom (flow from Plato) so surpasses the author’s sham icon and identity,
as marvels mathematics more perfectly pristine than politics.
topics  posts  views  last activity   
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 focused his a

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“Huygens considered himself, Spinoza, and the Amsterdam regent-scientist, Johannes Hudde, the three leading specialists labouring to improve and extend its capabilities.” 0 likes
“generally refers to Spinoza with a pinch of social disdain, as ‘nostre Juif’, ‘nostre Israelite’, ‘le Juif de Voorburg’, or simply ‘l’Israélite’, that Huygens and Spinoza disagreed about microscope lense sizes and curvatures. In deliberating with his brother, Huygens did not hide the fact that Spinoza was in some respects even more proficient with microscopes than he was himself” 0 likes
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