In an elegant, eminently readable work, one of our most distinguished intellectual historians gives us a brilliant revisionist history. The Roads to Modernity reclaims the Enlightenment–an extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about human nature, politics, society, and religion--from historians who have downgraded its importance and from scholars who have given preeminence to the Enlightenment in France over concurrent movements in England and America.Contrasting the Enlightenments in the three nations, Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy and wisdom of the British, exemplified in such thinkers as Adam Smith, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, as well as the unique and enduring contributions of the American Founders. It is their Enlightenments, she argues, that created a social ethic–humane, compassionate, and realistic–that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more than in Europe.The Roads to Modernity is a remarkable and illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.
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|Title of Religion eBook: The Roads to Modernity|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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The Roads to Modernity
Chapter One"Social Affections" and Religious Dispositions
The British did not have "philosophes." They had "moral philosophers," a very different breed. Those historians who belittle or dismiss the idea of a British Enlightenment do so because they do not recognize the features of the philosophes in the moral philosophers-and with good reason: the physiognomy is quite different.
It is ironic that the French should have paid tribute to John Locke and Isaac Newton as the guiding spirits of their own Enlightenment, while the British, although respectful of both, had a more ambiguous relationship with them. Newton was eulogized by David Hume as "the greatest and rarest genius that ever rose for the ornament and instruction of the species," and by Alexander Pope in the much quoted epitaph: "Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night;/God said, Let Newton be! and all was light." But Pope's An Essay on Man sent quite a different message: "The proper study of mankind is man" implied that materialism and science could penetrate into the mysteries of nature but not of man. In an earlier essay, the allusion to Newton was more obvious; it was human nature, not astronomy, Pope said, that was "the most useful object of humane reason," and it was "of more consequence to adjust the true nature and measures of right and wrong, than to settle the distance of the planets and compute the times of their circumvolutions." While Newton received the adulation of his countrymen (he was master of the Royal Mint and president of the Royal Society, was knighted, and given a state funeral), and his scientific methodology was much praised, he had little substantive i...