Synopses & Reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS
One of our most renowned and brilliant historians takes a fresh look at the revolutionary intellectual movement that laid the foundation for the modern world.
Liberty and equality. Human rights. Freedom of thought and expression. Belief in reason and progress. The value of scientific inquiry. These are just some of the ideas that were conceived and developed during the Enlightenment, and which changed forever the intellectual landscape of the Western world. Spanning hundreds of years of history, Anthony Pagden traces the origins of this seminal movement, showing how Enlightenment concepts directly influenced modern culture, making possible a secular, tolerant, and, above all, cosmopolitan world.
Everyone can agree on its impact. But in the end, just what was Enlightenment? A cohesive philosophical project? A discrete time period in the life of the mind when the superstitions of the past were overthrown and reason and equality came to the fore? Or an open-ended intellectual process, a way of looking at the world and the human condition, that continued long after the eighteenth century ended? To address these questions, Pagden introduces us to some of the unforgettable characters who defined the Enlightenment, including David Hume, the Scottish skeptic who advanced the idea of a universal “science of man”; François-Marie Arouet, better known to the world as Voltaire, the acerbic novelist and social critic who challenged the authority of the Catholic Church; and Immanuel Kant, the reclusive German philosopher for whom the triumph of a cosmopolitan world represented the final stage in mankind’s evolution. Comprehensive in his analysis of this heterogeneous group of scholars and their lasting impact on the world, Pagden argues that Enlightenment ideas go beyond the “empire of reason” to involve the full recognition of the emotional ties that bind all human beings together. The “human science” developed by these eminent thinkers led to a universalizing vision of humanity, a bid to dissolve the barriers past generations had attempted to erect between the different cultures of the world.
A clear and compelling explanation of the philosophical underpinnings of the modern world, The Enlightenment is a scintillating portrait of a period, a critical moment in history, and a revolution in thought that continues to this day.
Praise for The Enlightenment
“Sweeping . . . Like being guided through a vast ballroom of rotating strangers by a confiding insider.”—The Washington Post
“Fascinating.”—The Telegraph (London)
“A political tract for our time.”—The Wall Street Journal
“For those who recognize the names Hegel, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Voltaire, and Diderot but are unfamiliar with their thought, [Anthony] Padgen provides a fantastic introduction, explaining the driving philosophies of the period and placing their proponents in context. . . . Padgen’s belief that the Enlightenment ‘made it possible for us to think . . . beyond the narrow worlds into which we are born’ is clearly and cogently presented.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The Enlightenment really does still matter, and with a combination of gripping storytelling about colorful characters and lucid explanation of profound ideas, Anthony Pagden shows why.”—Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and The Blank Slate
"For those who recognize the names Hegel, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Voltaire, and Diderot but unfamiliar with their thought, Padgen (Peoples and Empires) provides a fantastic introduction; explaining the driving philosophies of the period and placing their proponents in context. In wry asides, he also offers snippets of their personal lives and interactions with each other. Padgen argues that the Reformation and the discovery of the Americas shattered certainty, causing many to reject the scholasticism of their upbringing. This led to a questioning of religion and the need for a secular state, with America as the beacon. Voltaire's friend, Benjamin Franklin, wanted to prove that, 'a society of unbelievers could be just as moral as a society of the devout.' Padgen also discusses the search for a 'natural' culture and blueprints made for creating one in Europe. Through the popularity of Enlightenment treatises, concepts of equality and human rights were broached without recourse to religion. Some promoted the idea of a united Europe and a few brave men even espoused the equality of women, guardedly. Padgen's belief that the Enlightenment 'made it possible for us to think...beyond the narrow worlds into which we are born,' is clearly and cogently presented. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Invisible Hands is a landmark piece of work, a brilliant excavation of eighteenth-century patterns of thought. Sheehan and Wahrman demonstrate in a virtuoso manner that eighteenth-century thinkers came to discern the same fundamental quality of self-organization at work in many different systems. The authors often wax lyrical, beautifully so, in their exploration of their topic, and do not shy away from posing questions of profound philosophical import. This book will cause a stir.”
“This book is a pleasure to read. Reed, a most distinguished scholar of German literature, brings to his subject a lifetime of learning as well as strong convictions and a refined literary sensibility. Reading like a prolonged conversation, it ably demonstrates the many sources of light in eighteenth century Germany and how they can still illuminate our present.”
“Sheehan and Wahrman offer exciting insights into the discourses of order and self-organization, which informed such disparate domains as the emerging life sciences, concepts of human cognition, politics, and economics. The reader is skillfully guided on a complex journey of discovery, at times through arcane archives, which are opened up for new and creative uses. Enjoyably witty, this is a most engaging read for anybody interested in the intersections of intellectual and cultural history.”
“Free markets; non-linear systems; chaotic dynamics: our world seems always at the mercy of uncertainty but still mysteriously orderly. Sheehan and Wahrman ingeniously locate the origins of our anxieties about self-organization in the busy, bruising world of the early Enlightenment. Invisible Hands is itself something of a miracle of organization, drawing together the histories of theology and botany, political economy and epistemology, mechanics and medicine, into an unsettling but strangely satisfying whole.”
“With this book, one of the most respected scholars in the field has written a passionate vindication of a passionate age, arguing in engaging, vigorous prose for its relevance to modern concerns. The German Enlightenment comes alive in all its aspects, questioning social, political, religious, and scientific norms and pushing the limits of reason itself; Reed also gives its contradictions a full account. Light in Germany is not only a sophisticated introduction for students and general readers but also an array of insightful interpretations, born of a lifetime of reading and thinking that will delight seasoned scholars.”
“Reed has done it again. With Light in Germany he has rendered invaluable service to all of those who cannot stop pondering the enigma of modern Germany. His wonderfully concrete and informed ‘scenes from an unknown Enlightenment’ compel us to reconsider the widespread disparagement of its philosophical, literary, and practical achievements by so many skeptics in the Anglophone world and in Germany itself. No small accomplishment!”
“Set out in vigorous prose which combine incisiveness with nuance. Light in Germany is written with all the combative trenchancy which distinguished the author’s twenty-year editorship of this magazine. It is based on deep familiarity with the literature of the period, and it is intellectually exhilarating to read.”
In Invisible Hands, the historians Jonathan Sheehan and Dror Wahrman identify a defining feature of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment: the decline of God as a source of order in favor of a new model of self-organization.” Sheehan and Warhman provide a novel account of how people on the threshold of modernity understood the continuing presence in the world of apparent disorder, randomness, and chance. If God no longer actively guaranteed that order will always prevail, what or whom did? The answer, the authors argue, was a new appreciation for complexity, new understandings of causality, and new functions for the divine hand. At the foundation of this novel way of thinking was the ability to imagine complex systems--be they natural or human--as self-organizing. Invisible Hands maps and explains the intensifying presence of the languages of self-organization throughout the eighteenth century, proliferating as they did with ever greater sophistication across numerous intellectual domains and cultural arenas. For self-organization was less a theory than a field of new insights: insights into the dynamics of chance and randomness, into the relationship between agency and determinism, into the role of God in a world without hands-on providence.
Why is the world orderly, and how does this order come to be? Human beings inhabit a multitude of apparently ordered systemsnatural, social, political, economic, cognitive, and otherswhose origins and purposes are often obscure. In the eighteenth century, older certainties about such orders, rooted in either divine providence or the mechanical operations of nature, began to fall away. In their place arose a new appreciation for the complexity of things, a new recognition of the worlds disorder and randomness, new doubts about simple relations of cause and effectbut with them also a new ability to imagine the worlds orders, whether natural or manmade, as self-organizing
. If large systems are left to their own devices, eighteenth-century Europeans increasingly came to believe, order will emerge on its own without any need for external design or direction.
In Invisible Hands, Jonathan Sheehan and Dror Wahrman trace the many appearances of the language of self-organization in the eighteenth-century West. Across an array of domains, including religion, society, philosophy, science, politics, economy, and law, they show how and why this way of thinking came into the public view, then grew in prominence and arrived at the threshold of the nineteenth century in versatile, multifarious, and often surprising forms. Offering a new synthesis of intellectual and cultural developments, Invisible Hands is a landmark contribution to the history of the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century culture.
Germany’s political and cultural past from ancient times through World War II has dimmed the legacy of its Enlightenment, which these days is far outshone by those of France and Scotland. In this book, T. J. Reed clears the dust away from eighteenth-century Germany, bringing the likes of Kant, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Gotthold Lessing into a coherent and focused beam that shines within European intellectual history and reasserts the important role of Germany’s Enlightenment.
Reed looks closely at the arguments, achievements, conflicts, and controversies of these major thinkers and how their development of a lucid and active liberal thinking matured in the late eighteenth century into an imaginative branching that ran through philosophy, theology, literature, historiography, science, and politics. He traces the various pathways of their thought and how one engendered another, from the principle of thinking for oneself to the development of a critical epistemology; from literature’s assessment of the past to the formulation of a poetic ideal of human development. Ultimately, Reed shows how the ideas of the German Enlightenment have proven their value in modern secular democracies and are still of great relevance—despite their frequent dismissal—to us in the twenty-first century.
The German Enlightenment is often held in disregard by those who see it as driven by an outdated theory of knowledge, an unrealistic idealist-utopian vision, and even an evil proto-totalitarian motivation. The present book by T. J. Jim Reed presents a very different picture by focusing on relatively disregarded or unknown” aspects of the German Enlightenment. The text is mindful throughout of the twenty-first century relevance, not to say twenty-first century moral” of the specific themes and works it addresses. The book is significant far beyond the important concerns of other monographs on the Enlightenment for it takes into account the writers (such as Kant, Schiller, Goethe, and Lessing), and on occasion the rulers (such as Frederick the Great), who realized its ideas and values in philosophy, art, and politics. Light, for Reed, only dawns fully in their writing. This book is not a description of the Enlightenment narrowly defined as a movement in abstract thought, much less a catalogue of every last minor participant, but an account of the spread of light that is, of lucid and active liberal thinking wherever it can be found in German eighteenth-century culture. The emphasis is indeed on the last third of the century, what is commonly called the late Enlightenment,” not as a separate phase, but as a maturing of the branches of a single tree with its imaginative harvest. In short, this book brings to life the most significant episodes and arguments of the German Enlightenment, and shows them as scenes in a larger drama at any moment, there is related action going on in another part of the field.
About the Author
Anthony Pagden is distinguished professor of political science and history at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was educated in Chile, Spain, and France, and at Oxford. He has been the University Reader in Intellectual History at Cambridge, a fellow of King’s College, a visiting professor at Harvard, and Harry C. Black Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of many prize-winning books, including Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West; Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece to the Present; and European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism. Pagden contributes regularly to such publications as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and The National Interest.
Table of Contents
References, Translations, and Usage
Introduction: Out of Darkness
Chapter 1. Coming of