The Dream of Enlightenment
‘This is a blast of fresh air’ Jonathan Clark, TLS
‘Thank goodness for Gottlieb’ Daily Telegraph
‘A joy to read’ Economist
The author of the celebrated The Dream of Reason vividly explains the rise of modern thought from Descartes to Rousseau
In a short period – from the early 1640s to the eve of the French Revolution – Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, and Hume all made their mark on Western thought. The Dream of Enlightenment tells their story and that of the birth of modern philosophy. What does the advance of science entail for our understanding of ourselves and for our ideas of God? How should a government deal with religious diversity – and what is government actually for? Their questions remain our questions, and it is tempting to think these philosophers speak our language and live in our world; but to understand them properly, we must step back into their shoes. Gottlieb puts readers in the minds of these frequently misinterpreted figures, elucidating the history of their times while engagingly explaining their arguments and assessing their legacy. Gottlieb creates a sweeping account of what they amounted to, and why we are still in their debt.
He wears his learning lightly with an engaging and entirely comprehensible sequence of crystal-clear paragraphs. ... His prose is as witty as it is punctilious, peppered with clever, memorable lines. ... Because Gottlieb does not take an excessively idealistic view of the power of reason, he is able to put the achievements of the thinkers in this book in their place, neither exaggerating nor diminishing them. -- Julian Baggini * Financial Times * Vivid and illuminating ... a compact but fairly comprehensive survey, along with much historical detail ... Gottlieb's highly readable book can be recommended as an engaging personal introduction to some of our most brilliant moral and intellectual ancestors. -- Thomas Nagel * New York Review of Books * An entertaining introduction to a range of daring thinkers of the long Enlightenment from Descartes to Rousseau. The author has a light touch, and his book is a joy to read. He manages to convey the excitement of ideas, and the humanity of thinkers, without swamping readers with complexity. * Economist * Wondrously perceptive and exceptionally well-written -- Edward O. Wilson
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