A Revolution of the Mind

A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy by Johnathan Israel

This is a summary of Johnathan Israel’s ideas of intellectual conflict between a Radical Enlightenment, a Moderate Enlightenment and a conservative religious trend. He puts Spinoza at the core of the Radical Enlightenment, along with Bayle and Diderot. I’d taken this on board from reading his Radical Enlightenment, a much longer account. Of course, in the modern era the ideas of the Radical Enlightenment seem very normal.

This account describes more of the Moderate Enlightenment attack on Radical Enlightenment, eg on grounds of lack of moral basis and atheism. I had not really thought of Voltaire or Hume being part of that.

Another idea it promotes is that the intellectual ideas of the Enlightenment were the basis for eg the French Revolution — I’d not really thought about that. He also suggested that in the Terror figures such as Robespierre condemned Enlightenment ideas.

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