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Customer Review

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't like it, it's too quiet..., 9 Jan 2010
This review is from: In Defence of the Enlightenment (Hardcover)
I found that the problem with this book was that nothing in it seemed to be problematic. Essentially, it falls into two parts, distributed across a number of themes ("Truth", "Autonomy", "Universality" and so on.) The first part is a re-statement of the ideals of the Enlightenment in relation to the issue being discussed, and the second looks at some problems of today which are related to the issue (but doesn't attempt a general or synthetic statement of how that theme appears in the modern world,) and suggests how the re-statement or the re-application of the Enlightenment position might improve matters.

However, the argument proceeds as if the nature and meaning of the Enlightenment were both homogeneous and self-evident, and as if we simply needed reminding of its nature and meaning to recall ourselves to our better natures. While I was reading it, I kept feeling that things were not quite so simple, and wishing that Professor Todorov had taken the time to tackle head-on questions like: why is the Enlightenment project so much more in danger from false friends than from direct enemies? Is the scientific stance of the Enlightenment merely a matter of vocabulary and rhetorical stance, or does it represent a genuine refounding of the human sciences on the model of the physical sciences? If the latter, why is a consensus so much harder to find and maintain in the human sciences, and why are they so productive of perversions and caricatures?

I don't think I'm just looking for difficuties where none ought to exist. This book has something of the serene clarity of style which characterises Bruno Bettelheim's "The Informed Heart", but I never felt that Bettelheim's style was disguising or smoothing away the difficulties of his subject. With this book, there's a disquieting sense that the smooth surface of its argument might be affording safe passage to the monsters of the deep.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Jan 2010 19:40:48 GMT
R. Talbot says:
Nice review. I haven't read it but hear Todorov talking online on a Philosophy Bites podcast. As a novice in the field, I found the argument he put forward new and appealing. I am more likely to go to his sources now though and work from there - perhaps look at his book on Rousseau: Frail happiness (translated by John T. Scott and Robert D. Zaretsky).
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