One of our most renowned and brilliant historians takes a fresh look at the revolutionary intellectual movement that laid the foundation for the modern world. Liberty and equality. Human rights. Freedom of thought and expression. Belief in reason and progress. The value of scientific inquiry. These are just some of the ideas that were conceived and developed during the Enlightenment, and which changed forever the intellectual landscape of the Western world. Spanning hundreds of years of history, Anthony Pagden traces the origins of this seminal movement, showing how Enlightenment concepts directly influenced modern culture, making possible a secular, tolerant, and, above all, cosmopolitan world. Everyone can agree on its impact. But in the end, just what was Enlightenment? A cohesive philosophical project? A discrete time period in the life of the mind when the superstitions of the past were overthrown and reason and equality came to the fore? Or an open-ended intellectual process, a way of looking at the world and the human condition, that continued long after the eighteenth century ended?
A clear and compelling explanation of the philosophical underpinnings of the modern world, The Enlightenment is a scintillating portrait of a period, a critical moment in history, and a revolution in thought that continues to this day.
©2013 Anthony Pagden (P)2013 Audible Inc.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
The expectation with which you come to a book can often colour how you judge a book in the end. With 'The Enlightenment - And Why it Still Matters' I expected a piece of objective history writing. If you have the same expectation you might be disappointed as Prof Anthony Pagden who specialises in Political Science and History has very clear cut ideas about the Enlightenment.
Prof Pagden is a heavy-weight in his field and speaks with authority of what he knows... but it seems more as a Political Scientist than as a Historian. That said his facts seems to be impeccable. His tract gives a positive evaluation of the 'Enlightenment' by introducing the major thought leaders of its time as well as their thoughts. By doing so he successfully explains the phenomena that lead to the modern world. The book is often very informative. But it seems that Padgen purposefully ignores the dark side of the Enlightenment, maybe because of the negative way it impacted on religion in the West and because he shares this negative inclination towards it.
Pairing Pagden's book with the voice of Robert Blumenfeld (who also read 'Jurgen' under the "Neil Gaiman presents" label) might not have been the best match. I found Blumenfeld very difficult to follow. He has a rushing quality in his reading. Furthermore he is not consistent in his pronunciation of Latin, while his German and French pronunciation are excellent. Yet he is not one of my favourite interpretative readers.
It is a solid book, but biased... It is difficult at some times to follow. Yet Padgen has written a tract that do not only introduce you to the Enlightenment, it is sure to produce proper debate.
Letting the rest of the world go by
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, 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.
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