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This review is from: The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (Hardcover)
When I heard a couple of weeks ago there was a new book on Ingersoll out by Susan Jacoby, I ordered a copy and it was a very good read. I don't think I learnt much new about Ingersoll, but it was different from other biographies I have read in that it is written thematically rather than chronologically, and its strength was the way it attempts to explain the significance of Ingersoll in the context of his own times and American society today. One of the key things it identifies is he was not a scientist or a philosopher, but was able to interpret and promote the new ideas of free-thought to the average person. His appeal was widespread, not just among freethinkers. Jacoby emphasises how modern his views were on topics from feminism to animal welfare, and that unlike some of the 'new atheists' was not devoid at the same time of the poetic \ emotional and romantic side of life. Interesting points as well about the prevalence of social Darwinism at the time and how Ingersoll separated himself from such ideas. He saw Darwin not as setting down survival of the fittest, and he showed that far from being shocked at the idea of being descended from apes, showed how these ideas supported the ideas of social progress. A good read, as is Jacoby's 'Freethinkers'.
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