Books of import

by on December 22, 2011 at 9:37 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Jonathan Israel, Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790.  With 1152 pages, a major author, and a clear writing style, this is a major work.  I’ve only browsed it.

Zara Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1933-1939.  Repeat the above description but up the number of pp. to 1248.

David Weinberger, Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.  Not out yet; will this be one of the big books of 2012?  Probably.

1 David Levey December 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

Jonathan Israel’s “Democratic Enlightenment” is the third part of a trilogy which started with “Radical Enlightenment” in 2001 and was followed by “Enlightenment Contested” in 2006. For those who don’t want to read over 3,000 total pages, there is a one-volume summary called “Revolution in the Mind.” This is one of the most important historical projects of the last few decades, giving a detailed analysis of the thinkers, ideas, and social forces which created the modern world. It is especially important reading for those of libertarian inclinations because it shifts our perspective on the origins of modern liberty from the Anglo-centered focus on Locke, Smith, Hume, etc. to the more radical tradition which starts with Spinoza and runs through Bayle, Diderot, and D’Holbach, to the non-Jacobin leaders of the French Revolution like Condorcet, Volney and Brissot and English radicals like Price, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and Priestly. The latter, unlike Smith and Hume, were advocates of complete toleration and freedom of speech and the press and enemies of aristocratic political dominance, colonialism, subjection of women, racism, and state support of religion. (Many were atheists). Israel’s discovery of the tremendous impact of Spinoza’s thought is a central feature of the trilogy. All-in-all, essential reading for “friends of liberty” who want to understand our true origins.

2 Popeye December 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

With 1152 pages, a major author, and a clear writing style, this is a major work.


3 Popeye December 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

BTW Israel’s recent work is not held in high opinion by his peers.

4 Ted Craig December 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

The recommendations on the Amazon page for Weinberger’s book don’t inspire me. But that’s me.

5 NeedleFactory December 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Israel’s books are a delight. Pick any one, go to any chapter whose title interests you, and enjoy.

6 jj December 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I do like those things which are interesting for me.

7 dresse December 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

this is a major work. I like it.

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