The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy (Liveright), by Anthony Gottlieb
Jan. 17, 2017
A cynic could call The Dream of Enlightenment the history of bad ideas. Take Thomas Hobbes, whose notion of the social contract left the ruler free to break his end of the bargain, or John Locke, whose idea that land belonged to whoever extracted the greatest value justified dispossessing the American Indians. Like a good historian, Anthony Gottlieb tries not to project the perspectives of the present onto the past and does a fine job of untangling thorny concepts in the interest of clarity. He’s also keen to correct commonly held false assumptions, holding that Descartes really did believe in objective reality, Spinoza was no atheist and Hobbes, for all his faults, fell short of advocating totalitarianism.