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The Enlightenment

Letters on “The Nation, Jonathan Israel and the Enlightenment”

June 15, 2010

A selection of letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site on a recent essay by Ann Talbot and David North.

The Nation, Jonathan Israel and the Enlightenment

By Ann Talbot, David North, June 9, 2010

On 12 May this year, the Nation magazine published an article entitled “Mind the Enlightenment.” It is an intellectually unprincipled and vindictive attack on Professor Jonathan Israel’s multi-volume history of the development of the Enlightenment and its relationship to social and political radicalism in the century leading up to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

The ghost of Thomas Hobbes

By Ann Talbot, May 12, 2010

A comment on an article by Corey Robin in the Nation magazine that lined up seventeenth century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes alongside the Italian Futurists and Friedrich Nietzsche as a “blender of cultural modernism and political reaction”.

Marxism and Science: An addendum to “The Frankfurt School vs. Marxism”

By Ann Talbot, Chris Talbot, October 28, 2008

This essay supplements “The Frankfurt School vs. Marxism: The Political and Intellectual Odyssey of Alex Steiner” by David North, recently published by the WSWS.

Spinoza Reconsidered

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 Oxford University Press

By Ann Talbot, August 26, 2003

I last reviewed Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment on this site in 2001 just after it came out in hardback. Why return to it now? The book itself would justify another review since it is a large and rich work that delves deeply into early Enlightenment history and repays reading and rereading. There is always something more to find in it. A first impression of such a book will inevitably represent a limited judgement and fail to do it complete justice. It is also now out in paperback.

Investigating the foundations of equality

God, Locke and Equality by Jeremy Waldron

By Ann Talbot, June 16, 2003

Professor Jeremy Waldron’s latest book is an examination of the theory of equality put forward by the seventeenth century English philosopher John Locke. This is a subject that is highly relevant today as the widening social gulf between the super rich and the rest of the population increasingly undermines the political institutions that have been based on the maintenance of at least a measure of social and economic equality.

Spinoza revisited

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity1650-1750, by Jonathan I. Israel, Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-19-820608-9, £30.00

August 7, 2001

To talk favourably of the Enlightenment has become something of a taboo in recent years. Some writers deny its existence, while others present it as a reactionary development. It is therefore refreshing to find a serious treatment of the intellectual trends of the late 17th and early 18th century that is not afraid to identify the Enlightenment as a progressive movement, which is associated with the rise of rational thought and a belief in equality and democracy.