Radical Enlightenment

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* Book: Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. By Jonathan I. Israel. Oxford Uniiv. Pr., 2001

URL =

- Blurb: "of the great historical works of the decade"

Review

Michel Bauwens, 2004:

What was the Enlightenment ? The French tradition insists on the diffusion of ideas, such as those of Montesqieu, Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert, d'Holbach and Rousseau. The English stress the scientific ideas such as those of Locke and Newton, while others claim there were so many differnent ones as there were countries in which it deployed itself.

But Israel insists that the latter claim is wrong, since indeed Europe was greatly integrated at the end of the 17th cy and the beginning of the 18th, and the major works circulated widely. However, next to the mainstream there was also an underestimated radical underground, to which the former works often reacted, and which were heavily influenced by Spinozism.

This was the moment, says the author, when the links of European culture in the sacred, magic, kinship and hierarchy, was effectively severed, and replaced by the principles of universality, equality, and democracy.

Israel starts with the 'age of confessional antagonism', from 1520 to 1650. After the Counter-Reformation, there was also a very strong Counter-Enlightenment, which revitalized traditional authority, with the emergence of new means of intellectual and spiritual control.


An italian observer of 1732, mentioned the following dominant schools:

   - The remaining Aristotelian scholastics
   - The 'moderni Lochisti', i.e. the followers of Locke and Newton
   - The Cartesiani-Malebranchisti
   - The devotees of Leibniz and Wolff
   - and the radical Epicuri-Spinosista

The first was conservative, category 2-4 were moderate partisans of the Enlightenment battling superstition, and the fifth were radicals denying that morality could be based on the attributes of the christian God.