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The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (Vol. 1) (Enlightenment an Interpretation) (v. 1) Paperback – July 17, 1995
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While the classicists inspired the philosophers of the Enlightenment, theis new breed of thinkers were generally contemptuous of religion and they sought to confront, to challenge and to overturn the philosophical concepts of the Hebrew and Christian thinkers who they viewed as their rhetorical adversaries in the battle beaten reason and faith.
Gay is an engaging writer with a gift for synthesizing a raft of material. Here he neatly summarizes the philosophical historians work: "...the philosophes wrote history with rage and with partisanship, and their very passion allowed them to penetrate into regions hitherto inaccessible to historical explorers. Yet it also made them condescending and oddly parochial: their sense of the past merged all too readily with their sense of the present." Although the philosophes view of history was critical, pessimistic, they saw the world "divided between ascetic superstitious enemies of the flesh, and men who affirmed life, the body, knowledge, and generosity; between mythmakers and realists, priests and philosophers.Read more ›
BOOK ONE: THE APPEAL TO ANTIQUITY
CHAPTER ONE: The Useful and Beloved Past
1. Hebrews and Hellenes: As the philosophes of the Enlightenment saw it, the world was divided into two irreconcilable patterns of life: superstition versus the affirmation of life; mythmakers versus realists; priests versus philosophers. The historical writings of the Enlightenment were all part of their comprehensive effort to secure rational control over the world and freedom from the pervasive domination of myth. The most glaring and notorious defect of the Enlightenment was its unsympathetic, often brutal, estimate of Christianity.
2. A Congenial Sense and Spirit: Rome belonged to every educated man Classic antiquity was inescapable, therefore, some of the philosophes' seemingly pagan ideas were simply the property of thinking men in their time. The philosophes identified with their favorite ancient philosophers, especially Cicero, who had contempt for the fear of death, contempt for superstition, and admiration for sturdy pagan self-reliance. Modern historians no longer think of Christianity as a complete swamp, but the reliance of the Enlightenment on ancient classicism has withstood two centuries of criticism.
3. The Search for Paganism: From Identification to Identity: The philosophes had been born into a Christian world.Read more ›
The philosophes taught a cheerful kind of self-reliance. Salvation was not to be found in the heavens above, but in the human race. They fought to replace barbaric institutions with new modes of thought that would inspire, not oppress, the human spirit. New modes of government (democracy). New methods of tending the sick (see Foucault's "Birth of the Clinic") and the insane (see Foucault's "Madness and Civilization"). New modes of punishing offenders (see Foucault's "Discipline and Punish"). New modes of thought.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Let me start off by saying that I took way too long to finish reading this book (about 8 months) - reading other books in between and just taking multiple breaks from reading. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Igor Faynshteyn
If, as is probably the case with the vast majority of Americans in their 50s or younger, your high school "social studies" courses left you clueless about European history,... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Bengoshi
Gay presents an interpertation of the Enlightenment that is persuasive. He connects and then distinguishes the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the early English... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Clay Garner
The book steps the reader through the development of the Enlightenment thinkers themselves. In addition to learning about the development of thought during the 18th century, I... Read morePublished on May 27, 2014 by Gary
As other reviewers have said, Peter Gay's two volume survey of the origins and philosophy of the enlightenment is comprehensive. And very, very long! Read morePublished on March 30, 2014 by Peter Green
Unremarkable and pandering to the pseudo-intellectual elitists to whom Mr. Gay receives his daily bread. Read morePublished on February 2, 2014 by John L. Hammerstein
Peter Gay has marvelously constructed an honestly and openly biased account of one of the most accounted for periods in history, yet P. Gay's stands out above the rest. Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by Threepwood
The scope of Peter Gay's scholarship is rather mind blowing - appears he has read every text or book dealing with his subject from ancient Greece to the present day. Read morePublished on October 28, 2013 by Eric C. Petersen