Brett Williams's Reviews > The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism

The Enlightenment by Peter Gay
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it was amazing
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Great ZOT, this man can write!

At age 90 - and still with us - we hope Peter Gay remains another sixty to seventy years so we might garner another half dozen books from him. While "The Enlightenment" was written in 1966, the ancients of 2300 years ago haven't changed much, nor have those Enlightenment philosophers of 300 years past that brought them back to life. In other words, the subjects of Gay's analysis and his stunning synthesis in this book remain relevant in any time, and what a book it is. So impressed is this reader I intend to read all of Gay's twenty-some odd productions, including those half-dozen on Freud (despite my dismissal of Freud). This interest in psychology - as slippery as it is - is apparent in Gay's "Enlightenment" revealing nuance after nuance with a sagacity and precision those in the field must wish they could approximate. Gay's treatment of the philosophes virtually rebuilds them whole with their biases, friendships, venom, insights, vulnerabilities, courage and persistence that freed the rest of us in the here-and-now. Note taking from this book may exceed its length due to the rareness of blank space left on a page after marginalia and highlights, and not infrequently for the joy of Gay's writing skills (noted simply so I can combine words the way he did). Metaphors and similes make this read like a novel. "The dozen-odd captains of the movement," writes Gay, "whose names must bulk large in any history of the European mind, were abetted by a host of lieutenants." When referring to Augustine's "Confessions", Gay adds it is "the exclamation of a tormented soul weary of mere thought, weary of autonomy, yearning for the sheltering security found in dependence on higher powers." And on Voltaire's lessons from ancient philosophy, Gay writes, "Men are thrown into the world to suffer and to dominate their suffering. Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats; life is a desert, but we can transform our corner into a garden." How a human could encompass so much knowledge (and at the time he was 43) then spit it out like Bach would compose a symphony is the rarest of things and Gay does that.
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April 6, 2014 – Shelved
April 29, 2014 – Shelved as: favorites

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