The other half the haters aren't taking into account is the theory of sentiment, that natural faculty of the imagination by which we can put ourselves in another's place. The theory of sentiment allowed the possibility of a natural morality free not just from divine decree but also from all religious and national partisanship.
For the first time in history, it was possible to conceive of loving our neighbor not because he or she shared our religion or came from the same country as us, and not because a god told us to, but because he or she was human, and because humans have rights simply by virtue of being human. Over the course of the book, Pagden traces the development of sentiment from the dismissal of religious dogmatism to a world-embracing cosmopolitanism.
The fleshing out of this theory of sentiment makes up the bulk of the book. I found that it really opened up the major thinkers for me, and introduced me to some Pufendorf, Wolff, Mazzini that I had never met. But here are some of my problems with Pagden's method. These are still live issues in our culture today didn't Pagden see Django Unchained with Leo DiCaprio's amazing speech about phrenology?
This omission is due in part to the fact that 2 his is an aristocratic form of history writing. He is interested in what the Great Men said to one another, what they read and what they wrote. If Lesser Men perverted their words to justify the violence of the French Revolution or slavery, well, that's not really the Enlightenment thinkers' fault. I have to pull a BS card on that line of reasoning. But the real problem is that 3 the whole sweep of the book struck me as teleological and somewhat messianistic, with Kant, Diderot, Locke, Voltaire, and co. I can't help but feel that, for American readers, there's a kind of originalist politics hidden inside, and perhaps not because that's the author's politics but only because he wasn't willing enough to show where and how far the Enlightenment thinkers went wrong.
Pagden hints at readings of more recent thinkers like Isaiah Berlin and Richard Rorty in the conclusion but doesn't go nearly far enough, which is a shame because by looking backwards and constantly talking about only the Great Men, Pagden remains committed to a conservative and outdated form of intellectual hero worship.
Complaints aside, I'm glad I read it and think intelligent people could really get a lot out of it. I tried - I really did. But the writing was so horrendous, I couldn't read more than a paragraph without my eyes crossing. Entire pages had to be read several times over to even follow where a sentence led, much less where it finally ended up. I really wanted to get through it, but I couldn't make it more than two chapters.
Nov 23, Benjamin Hare rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , history. This book deserves multiple readings. Tied up in all this is the movement toward a truly secular understanding of human rights, and government. Multi-culturalism—that id This book deserves multiple readings. This book is all about ideas and Pagden shows how these grew and changed through dialogs between writers of the time. Through this book I was introduced to an exciting assortment of writers I had never heard of. Some names were familiar but a large number were new to me. Pagden is a brilliant historian and apparently a polyglot; quotations in French, German, and Latin are sprinkled throughout the book.
The work is written to be read by normal blokes like me, but veers into analysis that at times left me feeling lost. His discussion of the French Revolution left me wondering if I had missed something, then I realized the lack was my own void concerning this particular portion of history. This motivation to read other books, to expand my own knowledge, and to question my assumptions recurred throughout my reading. By the end of the book I had a long list of bibliographic references that will no doubt take me years to get through.
A note about editions. The audiobook version I listened to is narrated by Robert Blumenfeld, who does a wonderful job with the—to my American ears—foreign names and quotations. However, he has a rushed cadence that is tiring and can be a bothersome distraction from the prose quality. His reading is just a bit too quick, not allowing enough time to digest a sentence before rushing into the next one. The printed edition contains a bibliography and index that is a treasure trove of research material.
Personally, I had trouble getting through the printed edition, so purchased the audio version and bounced back and forth between them. Professor Pagden is a thoughtful and careful author. He takes the readers methodically through the period, introducing people many writers on the Enlightenment ignore. The reader will get to know Bougainville, Saunderson, Wolff, and Vattel; not in that order. The reader will come to know the common names of the period in a different — well light — Condorcet, Diderot, Rousseau, Saftesbury, Voltaire and especially Kant.
This was a book I was very glad to have picked-up and spent the time to carefully read. It gave me a new understanding of Enlightenment period and a renewed belief that it does really still matter. May 04, Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it Shelves: european-history-non-military. An interesting if somewhat disorganized look at the Enlightenment. Pagden covers a lot of the normal ground, proceeding thematically rather than trying to cover each major thinker as a unit.
He's also big on the Enlightenment as a conversation, a debate over essential questions of politics, morality, religion, epistemology, etc. He has a really clear explanation of how the Enlightenment challenged and largely overthrew a medieval system of thought based in scholasticism and natural law thinking. Pagden's big focus, and arguably his most original contribution in this book, is his discussion of how exploration and interactions with foreign peoples shook up European thought in this time span.
The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters
He goes into all kinds of travel narratives and showed how engagement with and imaginings of foreign societies shaped the Enlightenment. For example, natural law thought assumed that all peoples could access and reason their way to certain moral truths, but the discovery and study of numerous tribal societies showed no inkling of these supposed universals. Debates about the state of nature and the natural condition of human beings were deeply shaped by readings o tribal societies, especially the in the Americas. They seemed to Europeans to be a more raw and essential version of human being, and how they behaved in this state appeared as hard evidence of what the core of human nature was, although people didn't agree on how to interpret their thought.
Many Enlightenment thinkers looked to China and Islamic societies in their studies of law, politics, and the development of ideas, especially Montesquieu. In fact, if you were going to really critique the Enlightenment, I'd say you should start with the fact that so many of these thinkers came to unduly expansive judgments about these peoples and human nature in general based merely on what they read. They generally dismissed the ideas of the explorers and social scientists who actually met these peoples, haughtily saying they weren't equipped to interpret what they actually witnessed..
In this case, many Enlightenment thinkers were deeply lacking in intellectual humility. I did find the book to be a bit thin on "why it still matters. He also discusses the critics of the Enlightenment, from rightists and communitarians who objected to the assault on tradition and that neglect of man as a social, communal being to leftists who saw the Enlightenment's ostensible pursuit of "universal civilization" and hyper-rationalism as the root of scientific racism and later crimes of modernity.
I think the rightist critique is actually stronger here, given that Enlightenment liberalism always seems to be struggling against the forces of tribe, faith, and nation. Beyond that, he's a bit vague on why it still matters. I think for me Pinker still has the best argument about why the Enlightenment still matters. If you have read him you could probably pass on this book, but if you haven't this is a pretty good survey of the more weedy ideological disputes of the Enlightenment. Jul 16, Leah rated it liked it Shelves: history , new-to-me , factual , , philosophy.
Like most people, I have a vague idea of what is meant by Enlightenment values — scepticism, reason, science etc. I hoped this book might give me a clearer idea of the history and development of the period and of the contribution of some of the main players.
Anthony Pagden: The Enlightenment - And Why It Still Matters (Oxford University Press)
And to a degree it did. Pagden concentrates very much on the intellectual developme Enlightening Pagden concentrates very much on the intellectual developments and how they impacted on the political sphere. In the first couple of chapters, Pagden briefly discusses the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, showing how the ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers grew out of and built onto these. In the following chapters, he takes us on a roughly chronological journey through the period of the Enlightenment, concentrating on the writings of the philosophers and highlighting how they influenced each other.
Towards the end, he discusses to what extent the French Revolution resulted from Enlightenment ideas and shows the philosophical backlash following this period. And finally, he very briefly highlights the influence that Enlightenment thinking still has, particularly in the West, on national and international forms of governance. There is no question about the amount of scholarship that has gone into this book and I undoubtedly feel considerably better informed about the subject.
However, there are several problems that prevent me from feeling I could wholeheartedly recommend it. His sentences are full of asides and fragmentary quotes that, while relevant, make the process of reading much harder work than should have been necessary. But this sentence also brings me to my second problem — the book would have been considerably helped by a list of the philosophers with a brief summary of their contribution and beliefs.
So a comparison to Vico means nothing to me, however shrewd it may be. Then there are the inconsistencies. And lastly, the book is absolutely chock full of typos, missed words and uncorrected errors — the proofreading is the most abysmal I have ever seen in an academic work. A book that I think would probably be very interesting for someone with an existing fairly good knowledge of the period and the people involved in it, but perhaps not one I would suggest as an introduction to the subject for a casual reader like myself.
Jul 21, Gary Beauregard Bottomley rated it it was amazing. The book it's not a book on the history or the philosophy of the enlightenment age, but, rather, a chronicle on how they thought about thinking about science and the science of man. He characterizes the Enlightenment by it's "dynamic and cosmopolitan" approach to thinking. The dynamic approach rejected knowledge based only on tradition, authority, revelation, or pretending to know things that weren't really known, and the cosmopolitan approach made the thinkers base there beliefs on logic, empiri The book it's not a book on the history or the philosophy of the enlightenment age, but, rather, a chronicle on how they thought about thinking about science and the science of man.
The dynamic approach rejected knowledge based only on tradition, authority, revelation, or pretending to know things that weren't really known, and the cosmopolitan approach made the thinkers base there beliefs on logic, empirical, and analytical methods when they were at their best which was not always! Their method of thought is a guidebook for critical reasoning and is still completely relevant to today's times.
He starts the enlightenment age with Hobbs and says that most of the rest of the century is spent humanizing Hobbs and putting his thought into the Stoic, Epicurean or the Skeptical camp. Mostly this is in the first third of the book when he is talking about philosophy and natural philosophy science. Everybody needs to read at least one book on this time period, and this probably is the best book available on audible to introduce the topic.
The author is probably not a philosopher or a pure historian and therefore, writes an accessible and easy to follow book for the listener to be able to follow the dialog of the the "Enlightenment Project" and presents the ideas of the time period by looking at a topic as if it were one long conversations between enlightenment thinkers. He looks at one topic, takes one or two of the great thinkers of the topic and covers that topic in depth and than adds what others during that period thought about that period of time. He'll spend two hours on Tahiti and he'll tell you why it was so important at that time period.
I read a lot books on science and they often point me to the importance of The Enlightenment Age. This book tells me why that period of time was so important and is still relevant to today and how we should approach critical reasoning today. There doesn't seem to be that many good books on audible on this period of time and this one is probably the best overview of the time period. Aug 08, Xander rated it it was ok. I wrote a scathing and harsh review on this book. Perhaps I should have been more nuanced in my review, and perhaps I should evaluate and value the book a little bit more for what it is - rather than what it isn't.
So let me try to come up with a more thoughtful response for the original review see below. Anthony Pagden tries to explain what the Enlightenment was and what it wasn't. He does this by zooming in on particular events, stories and persons from mainly the eighteenth century. Al I wrote a scathing and harsh review on this book.
All this is meant as a plea for a re-evaluation of the Enlightenment ideals in the wake of the postmodernist and communitarian onslaught in the twentieth century. According t0 Pagden, the Enlightenment was, ultimately, the quest to found a 'science of man'. Since the 'science of the world' worked so well - especially Newton's mechanics - philosophers tried to apply the same discovered method of searching for truth i.
With a template of how to conduct science i. Newton's natural philosophy ; with an ever-increasing set of data about different, then unknown, cultures all over the world; with some of the brightest minds of the eighteenth century all set on the same goal; the Enlightenment ended in Kant's formulation of a cosmopolitan right i.
In short: the ideas of Hobbes, Locke and Hume ended in a theoretical understanding of how human beings thought one could say this is the foundation of psychological science. Adam Smith added to this that 'sympathy' was the driving force behind humanity: people want to feel good about themselves, and seeing others feel well is part of feeling good. For the Enlightenment thinkers commerce was a cosmopolitan ideal: the whole world be connected and interdependent, preventing the senseless wars of the past centuries. During this same epoch, there was a radical change in how mankind thought about rights and jurisprudence: natural law was view more and more as litererally that: morality followed natural laws, just as objects falling towards the Earth follow natural laws.
Discovering these natural laws gave insight into the universality of what makes human beings take: seek pleasure and avoid pain. Another major trend was the discovery of primitive cultures i. Travellers wrote books and journals about the customs, traditions and religions of these newly discovered and exotic peoples; philosophers studied these reports from the armchairs and came to the conclusion that cultural relativism was the only option left. At least scientifically - the existence of different mores and customs didn't imply that other cultures weren't inferior to European cultures.
Philosophy led to psychology; psychology led to sociology i. Kant's cosmopolitan right and the need for international, human law. This is, according to Pagden, the story of the Enlightenment. It all culminated in the French Revolution, in which these ideals were put into practice and ended with the blade of the guillotine itself an application of the valued scientific insights cutting the necks of many innocents.
The Romantic movement, frustrated as these German intellectuals were by the defeat of their Prussian armies by Napoleon, went berserk and started a smearing campaign that the marxists and the later postmodernists via Herder, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. This idea, which is still prevalent - too widespread, according to me - in contemporary mainstream media, politics and society, leads to cultural depression and self-hate. It is rather refreshing to look at the statistics of our contemporary world, look back at those same statistics around the year , and conclude that the ideals of the Enlightenment - individual freedom, intellectual development, human rights, rational thinking - have brought us some much and that this smearing campaign has been mostly ineffective.
This is also what Pagden exclaims in the last few paragraphs of the book: according to him the Enlightenment is alive and well, especially so in the European Union which is, according to him, a culmination of Kant's ideas. It is worth defending and caring about. The book itself isn't written terribly well. This is why my first response after putting it down was to write my original, scathing review.
The strength of Pagden is his use of personal anecdotes: one learns a lot about contemporary events and ideas when dealing with actual people - instead of dealing only with a history of abstract ideas. It is also supported by a long list of references and notes. But the book really lacks a structure, which makes it really hard to grasp the main lines of thought. Towards the end, things become somewhat less vague and mystic, yet by then the reader has lost the opportunity to fully grasp all the ideas conveyed earlier.
One could of course re-read the book, but one could also ask a writer to offer some better structure to help the reader connect, and understand, the material offered. I wonder if someone who doesn't know beforehand about the ideas and persons involved in eighteenth century Enlightenment can use this book to understand this historical epoch better.
Easy to follow, but Pagden could have done with at least pages less than the book now contains. It is really long winded, full of personal anecdotes of the thinkers involved, and at times it seems the book lacks a coherent structure. The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters had the potential to be truly gripping; it has ended up as a complete disaster. Sep 21, Ted Morgan rated it it was amazing. I will continue referring to this excellent work. It is rich and wise. Shelves: politics , history , physical-copy , philosophy , religion.
Review in English not my mother tongue and Spanish below This book analyzes the intellectual history of the Enlightenment. It is not ordered chronologically, nor does it narrate too many things about the life of the enlightened philosophers. It is divided by themes: Preface Introduction All coherence gone: the intellectual shocks caused by Protestantism, the Wars of Religion, the discovery of America, the Scientific Revolution, etc.
Bringing pity back in: defense of Reason, yes; but also of sympa Review in English not my mother tongue and Spanish below This book analyzes the intellectual history of the Enlightenment. Bringing pity back in: defense of Reason, yes; but also of sympathy. The fatherless world: the attack on religious dogmatic thinking The science of man Discovering man in nature The defense of civilization these three chapters deal with human nature and the social contract, grosso modo The great society of mankind The vast commonwealth of nature these two deal with cosmopolitanism, roughly Conclusion The writing is irregular.
To begin with, the edition is really disastrous, considering the importance of the book. In my edition on paper there were many commas and periods that were missing. There were phrases with no grammatical meaning, and comic typographical errors, such as "scared text" instead of "sacred text" p. Even in a section it seems that the author makes a mess with his own notes and repeats almost all the content of a paragraph twice p I also believe that Pagden suffers "the curse of knowledge".
He knows so much that sometimes he does not put himself in the place of the reader who knows far less than he does. There are whole passages that go round without knowing very well where they lead. And the prose is convoluted inside the paragraps, too. He discusses the great ideas, without infusing too much life to the historical figures. However, in my opinion the prose improves towards the end. The last chapter is very good.
And the conclusion is an amazing, wonderful text, a very well reasoned and emotional defense of the Enlightenment against its past and present enemies. It is worth having had to read the less good parts to find this wonderful conclusion. I liked it, but I could have lived without reading it Three stars. Tres estrellas. Jul 05, Danielnlgmail. The book does a very good job in summarizing what in short the Enlightenment movement or movements and its people were all about.
But because of this period stretches from roughly till the book comes across as rather dense. The author obviously wanted to cram as many ideas in it as possible and that is perhaps also then the most regretful part as this period contain way too much interesting idea, people, concepts and events to discuss it in mere pages. I think to that end the mai The book does a very good job in summarizing what in short the Enlightenment movement or movements and its people were all about.
I think to that end the main philosophers discussed are all coming from the High Enlightenment and not so much from the Early Enlightenment. Cambridge History Of Philosophy or Political Thought discussing the 17th and 18th Century are some other works that will do good in giving you a thorough overview.
The book is also mainly or almost entirely only discussing the first part of the title but the second part 'and why it still matters' is as good as completely ignored. To me, that would mean that the author linked all these ideas with the present but that is actually only happening in the second last chapter where a link is established between their ideas and ours now and I believe that this could have been worked out in a lot of other places more detailed too. As an introduction or as a continuation after you read the Oxford Very Short Introduction it is, however, standing its ground but if you want to get more detail I strongly advise you to go look elsewhere.
And of course even better is to read the texts of that period yourself although it may be hard to find some of these texts in English. Dec 07, Jrobertus rated it really liked it. This is a very scholarly work addressing one of the key eras of Western civilization, along with the earlier scientific revolution, reformation, and discovery of the New World. The first part of the book is a nice review of the key thinkers who helped break the intellectual strangle-hold of scholastic and religious authority over rational thought.
This movement championed reason over dogma and empowered the notions of individual liberty, freedom and equality along with the rise of capitalism. He This is a very scholarly work addressing one of the key eras of Western civilization, along with the earlier scientific revolution, reformation, and discovery of the New World. After this he describes in detail the impact of science, rationalism and the age of exploration on European thought and action.
Was there a social contract? What is human nature?
The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters
It is all very thought provoking, although in my opinion, the theory of evolution and modern anthropology makes a lot of this discussion look pretty outdated. Even so, it is fascinating home brilliant thinkers, like Hume, identified key issues that still resonate and how, even lacking the results of modern science, he was able to reason out how certain aspects of human behavior must be as they are.
Feb 18, Angie Boyter rated it did not like it Shelves: didn-t-finish , sunday-philosophers. I faithfully read all the books selected for my book groups in their entirety, but I made an exception for this boring, pedantic book. Do you know what role Jean-Paul Marat played in the Enlightenment? If you do, you may enjoy this book. If you do NOT know of Marat or if, like me, you associate him with the Marquis de Sade and that is all you know about him , then you probably will find it rather infuriating.
Author Pagden mentions Marat for the very first time on page , where he writes, "Vo I faithfully read all the books selected for my book groups in their entirety, but I made an exception for this boring, pedantic book. Author Pagden mentions Marat for the very first time on page , where he writes, "Voltaire Perhaps I should be ashamed of my ignorance, but I am forced to conclude that this is a book that was written for those who do not need to read it.
Dec 05, Ian rated it it was amazing. This book was published in , and it would be interesting to get Professor Pagden to do an update on this book in the light of Trump's election and the assault on the Enlightenment by right wing ideologues such as Steve Bannon and the new European leaders. Oct 17, Tim Robinson rated it it was ok Shelves: philosophy.
Kaunitz, the birth of the USA, stuff like that. But no. It's a mere philosophy book. Jul 04, Denis rated it really liked it. Supports those who think that the significance of the French Revolution is "too early to say". This book was a slog for me, but I'm glad I stuck with it. Aug 16, So Hakim rated it liked it Shelves: philosophy.
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