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About the Author

Anthony Gottlieb is the executive editor of The Economics and writes regularly for the New York times Book Review. (Bowker Author Biography)

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In praise of idleness : and other essays (1935) — Esipuhe, eräät painokset1,004 kappaletta

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jabir206 | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 1, 2022 |
The Dream of Enlightenment
Subtitled: The Rise of Modern Philosophy
Anthony Gottlieb
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I read some of this book over the past few weeks, in my usual way of a few minutes here and there at the end of a work day. I started over when I started a long airplane trip, so I could better follow the arguments. Gottlieb provides summaries of the thought of philosophers with some insights into their lives and environments. Since he started as a journalist, he is often better at the human stories.

He argues that much of philosophy occurred as two "staccato bursts" of thought, each of about 150 years duration, one discussed in his previous book "The Dream of Reason" (I read that years ago) from 450 BCE to 300 BCE, encompassing Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the one discussed in this volume, starting with Galileo in the 1630's and ending at the French Revolution in 1789.

Descartes lived a comfortable life, and began his program of radical doubt in the course of a series of vivid dreams after a day of contemplation of mathematics. He published three essays, including the essay on analytic geometry, with a “Discourse on Method” describing the doubt and resolution with the help of a benevolent God. The introduction of God might have been a sop to avoid notice by the Inquisition.

The thought of Thomas Hobbes is described next. “The monster of Malmesbury” was widely believed to be impious, and was denounced many times. Hobbes wrote that the whole universe was physical, so God had to be physical, and that the body and soul disintegrated until the last coming. His political philosophy opined that in the state of nature no one would be safe from the fear of attacks by his fellow beings, so everyone was better off to surrender to a King.

Of the philosophers discussed by Gottlieb, Spinoza’s system of thought is the most attractive to me. “God … required of men no other knowledge of himself than is contained in a knowledge of His justice and charity”. God is all of nature and does not have human qualities, does not intervene in the world,

Locke is the subject of the next chapter, subtitled "Philosophy for the British". "The mind, if it will proceed rationally, ought to examine all the grounds of Probability and see how they make more or less, for or against and probable Proposition, before it assents or dissents from it …". He was, according to Gilbert Ryle, the inventor of common sense, and his legacy is British empiricism. He also articulated the idea of the "social contract" as the basis of legitimate government. I am interested that he initially wanted to be a physician, and accompanied Sydenham on rounds; Sydenham was reviled in the medical profession for his insistence on studying disease: "The function of a physician [is the] industrious investigation of the history of diseases, and of the effects of remedies, as shown by the only true teacher, experience…"

There is then an "Interlude on a Comet" discussing Pierre Bayle, a French Huguenot, who wrote a brief text rejecting the idea that the occurrence of an unusually bright comet was a warning from God. The book argued that atheists could be moral, incensing the church. Gottlieb says that Bayle, although not well known, is cited by many subsequent philosophers, and that his "Historical and Critical Dictionary" is "the arsenal of all Enlightenment philosophy". It was said, when asked about his religious beliefs, that Bayle replied "I am a good Protestant …for … I protest against everything that is said, and everything that is done".

Leibniz, an amazing polymath and philosopher, was eager to merge ancient and Scholastic philosophy with the new study of matter and motion, a study he advanced with his separate invention of calculus. With his theory of monads, he tried to link matter and motion with the notion that monads had mind like capabilities that enable mechanical laws to be "derived from higher reasons".

David Hume was a good fellow, and many of his contemporaries held him in high regard. He wrote a Treatise on Human Nature, an attempt to study humanity by the same methods that are used to study the rest of nature. His summary of the work in the "Abstract" is largely a discussion of knowledge by induction. I can recall reading this in college philosophy, and trying to argue on a chemistry test that his theory is the same as Margenou, a book that I did not read.

Voltaire, Rousseau, and the "Philosophes", the French schools of thought, form the final chapter. Gottlieb suggests the enlightenment helped to make the world more intellectually adventurous and less ignorant.
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neurodrew | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 5, 2019 |
Ours may not be the best of all possible worlds; but these pioneers helped to make it an intellectually adventurous and, as d'Alembert suggested, a less ignorant one.

Dream was a most welcome birthday present for me personally its publication is also timely given a world which sorely needs to examine its present trajectory. It is a survey by a retired journalist, a layman more than apt to do the heavy lifting about the advocates of a mechanized world, the stirring time in our early Modern period when the ghosts under our bed and the threat of Old Scratch could be outdistanced. The noble products of this were the technology and the trappings of tolerance; unfortunately, it is an ongoing project. Voltaire is included as foil to many: Leibniz, Hume and Rousseau, but Voltaire captures something human and timeless, much as his Candide, when pondering the fortunes of the New World, quips it may not be better but at least it will be different. If only.

I am blessed with an adequate familiarity of all the thinkers cited. My chief course of improvement will be to read more Hume. Please forgive the possible vanity, but I often feel like a Hobbes or Spinoza, though I lack the talent and ambition of either. Leibniz had by far the coolest life and Rousseau was quite an asshole.
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jonfaith | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 22, 2019 |
"The Dream of Enlightenment" discusses the key figures in the second great flowering of Western philosophy, in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe. It follows Gottlieb's earlier work, "The Dream of Reason", which covered the first flowering in ancient Greece. A third volume which will bring the series up to the present. "Enlightenment" is a worthy successor to "Reason", which is high praise indeed. Both books have a lot to teach the reader, and both do so in an eminently readable manner. Gottlieb's prose is crystal clear and frequently witty. The structure of the book -- in which key philosophers, starting with Descartes and ending with Voltaire, are discussed in the context of their times -- carries the narrative along. That presentation in historical context is amplified by brief biographical sketches and by some discussion of what contemporaries had to say about the personality of the philosopher in question. That was particularly valuable to me, because it gave the ideas under discussion a depth that they would lack in a contextless listing. A very valuable book: I look forward to Volume 3.… (lisätietoja)
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annbury | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 21, 2017 |


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