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A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy Hardcover – 15 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (15 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691142009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691142005
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 296,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Spinoza's radicalism was certainly frightening in its time, and Israel has valuably if aggressively opened the question of its influence on the Enlightenment and the era of revolution."--Samuel Moyn, Nation

"Israel is right to emphasize the importance of this intellectual movement, but since his is such a sweeping revision of so many generations of received ideas, his work raises the question of why the radical Enlightenment has been misunderstood or obscured for so long in favor of such colorful figures as Voltaire (in Israel's telling, a witty, snobbish sycophant). . . . We are lucky that a historian of Israel's caliber has taken these subjects on and lucky, too, that he has now produced a readable introduction to them."--Benjamin Moser, Harper's Magazine

"Israel's reasoned assertion for the influence of the Radical Enlightenment on democratic thought is certainly compelling, making this essential reading for students of the Enlightenment era as well as anyone interested in the foundations of modern democracy."--Library Journal

"Israel's new book is a breathtaking rethinking of the Enlightenment and its impact in the modern world."--Choice

"Perhaps no active scholar has shaped the conversation about the sources and meaning of the Enlightenment more than Jonathan Israel. . . . Almost miraculously, Israel manages to embody the greatest intellectual virtues and vices."--Christian Century

"Israel succeeds commendably in a great evaluation and dissemination of generally unknown texts from beyond the familiar territories of France, England, and America. In this respect, he broadens the common conception of where Enlightenment ideas were debated and implemented, unlike Isaiah Berlin, who failed to notice the American Enlightenment."--Rivka Weisberg and Carl Pletsch, 1650-1850

"In telling this fascinating story, A Revolution of the Mind reveals the surprising origins of our most cherished values--and helps explain why in certain circles they are frequently disapproved of and attacked even today."--World Book Industry

"The book is obligatory reading."--Antal Szántay, Israel, European History Quarterly

"[T]hanks to Israel's engaging narrative style, this is an accessible and entertaining, yet hugely informative read."--Sinéad Fitzgibbon, Marginalia

"Israel's book is itself a demonstration of just how alive Enlightenment values and ideals still are."--Alan Apperley, European Legacy

From the Back Cover

"This book succeeds beautifully. Written with confidence and concision, it lays out Jonathan Israel's central ideas about the Radical Enlightenment and its fundamental importance in shaping the values of democratic modernity. Those who already know his work will find a clear and bold statement of his principal arguments, as well as important elaborations and expansions. Those unfamiliar with his scholarship will get a masterful introduction to the work of one of the leading Enlightenment scholars in the world today."--Darrin M. McMahon, Florida State University

"Interesting, erudite, and provocative, this book provides readers with a succinct and clear introduction to Jonathan Israel's wide-ranging work on the Radical Enlightenment. It should command a broad readership."--James Schmidt, Boston University

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Paul Auerbach on 25 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Professor Jonathan Israel's 'A Revolution of the Mind' may appear to be a mere (270 page) interlude to his massive trilogy on the Enlightenment, of which the first two volumes (800 and 900 pages) have already appeared. This graduate of Cambridge and Oxford points to the limitations of viewing the Enlightenment (and other historical periods) from an Anglophone perspective, and does so by exhaustively reviewing contemporaneous publications and manuscripts in at least eight languages.

This monumental scholarship is used to good purpose: the history of the Enlightenment is completely re-written in the context of a powerfully argued thesis that there were in fact two Enlightenments - a radical one emanating from the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century and especially Spinoza, and a moderate one, more deferential to intellectual and temporal authority. In this latest volume, the history reaches to the period preceding the French Revolution, where the inheritors of the radical tradition, Diderot and the baron d'Holbach are in fierce conflict with the moderates Voltaire and his friend Fredrick the Great, king of Prussia.

Professor Israel sticks very much to the topic at hand, but it is impossible not to see the profound implications of his scholarship for later periods and for intellectual history in general. Many of us are breathlessly awaiting the third volume of the trilogy, where he promises to discuss the place of the young Marx in the Enlightenment tradition. The new volume is an excellent introduction to Israel's Enlightenment scholarship, but is not a mere interlude, as it introduces new material almost completely, as usual, from original sources.

There has been no comparable scholarship in English, and none that so completely changes our view of the world since Joseph Needham's `Science and Civilization in China'.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By docread on 29 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author a foremost authority on the Enlightenment, has published a large corpus of work offering a groundbreaking perspective on the centrality of the Radical Enlightenment ideas in the formation of the political and cultural values of the modern western world.This book is by far the most accessible of his work and provides the reader with a succinct and cogent presentation of his theses.

We owe it to Margaret Jacob, the first historian to coin the term "Radical enlightenment" in her 1981 book,the conceptual distinction between the two main streams of the Enlightenment.On the one hand the moderate stream which was deistic,positively providential,Newtonian and supportive of the hierarchical order of Society.On the other hand the Radical stream which propounded pantheist materialistic views of the world derived from Spinoza and was politically radical stressing the essential equality of humans,and showing an unbending commitment to representative democracy,the rights of the individual and wide toleration with the full separation of state and church. The two streams divided on the question of the primacy of human reason in human affairs. The main stream advocated that reason had to be limited by faith and tradition.

Jonathan Israel has elaborated and enriched the original thesis on a massive encyclopaedic scale.He has created a pantheon of cultural heroes, where the most venerable place is assigned to Spinoza, followed by Bayle and the materialist French "Philosophes" of the 18th Century namely Diderot, Helvetius and d'Holbach.In this book he allows prominent place as well to the three English radical P's Paine,Price and Priestley.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bart van den Bosch on 31 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is commonly known that Jonathan Israel, professor of Modern History at Princeton, is a man with a mission. In Radical Enlightenment (2002) and Enlightenment Contested (2006) he presented his remarkable views on the history of the Enlightenment. His foremost motivation to do this lay in the ill-informedharsh judgment bestowed on the Enlightenment at the end of the twentieth century by anti-enlightenment thinkers and, closely connected to this, the highly unsatifactorial state historical research about this crucial epoch had fallen.
Israels central thesis in both the first two parts of his Enlightenment-project as well as in A Revolution of the Mind stresses that a fundamental distinction has to be made between Radical Enlightenment on the one hand, and Moderate Enlightenment on the other. Radical Enlightenment embodied the, if necessary through revolutionary means, pursuit of freedom of opinion, equal rights for all and the principal separation of church and state; each of which are core democratic values. Moderate Enlightenment, on the other hand, kept adhering to the idea of Providence, either Deïstic or religious and a strictly hierarchically structured society based on monarchal or aristocratic principles to which colonialism, economic exploitation and political suppression were inextricably linked. The changes these Moderates propagated would have to come about through gradual reform, leaving traditional structures as much untouched as possible; an approach with consequences not nearly as far reaching as that of their radical counterparts.
Jonathan Israel points out that there really was a revolution of the mind in the second half of the 18th century in Europe and Northern America.
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