Evolution of Ideas

There have been some very silly ideas concocted throughout human history, to have a silly idea is merely silly, but to study the history or context or origins of silly ideas is scholarship ... and, even if not at the level of scholarship, it can prove interesting.

Collections of Essays on History of Philosophy . Friesian . Kemmerling . Turner .


Though initially treated with reactionary and paranoid horror, the Enlightenment ultimately proved beneficial, even though incomplete.

å Beyond Belief
å Enlightenment 101
å Enlightenment Darrin McMahon
å Germane to Enlightenment 2.0

åå Oh, the Humanities


Enlightenment 101

Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment, by Emma Rothschild



The Enlightenment has variously been described, "the idea of a universal disposition of enlightenment, or of a discursive, disputatious theorizing way of life."

~ Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment, reviewed in Money and Love by Peter Berkowitz.











Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, by Darrin McMahonEnemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, by Darrin McMahon


"Everywhere philosophie lights the torch of discord and of war, prepares poisons, sharpens swords, lays fires, orders murder, massacre, and carnage, sacrifices fathers by the hand of sons, and sons by the hand of fathers. It directs lances and swords at the heads and the breasts of sovereigns, placing them on scaffolds, which it yearns to see flowing with sovereign's blood–blood that it will drink in deep draughts as it feasts its eyes on the horrible specter of their torn, mutilated, and bloody members."

~ Charles-Louis Richard, Dominican priest, Exposition de la doctrine de la philosophie moderne, 1785

Enlightenment Darrin McMahon

In session 1 of BB2E2, historian Darrin McMahon ends his presentation with a reading from Peter Gay's The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism:

"The world has not turned out the way the philosophes wished and half expected that it would. Old fanaticisms have been more intractable, irrational forces more inventive than the philosophes were ready to conjecture in their darkest moments. Problems of race, of class, of nationalism, of boredom and despair in the midst of plenty have emerged almost in defiance of the philosophes’ philosophy. We have known horrors that the men of the Enlightenment did not foresee in their worst nightmares. Yet, though few are inclined to believe it, none of this impairs the permanent value of the Enlightenment’s human and libertarian vision or the permanent value of its critical method any more than the philosophes’ failure to live up to their own prescriptions or realize their own ideals compromises the worth of those same prescriptions and ideals. It remains as true today as it was in the 18th century, the world needs more light than it has, not less, and the cure for the shortcomings of Enlightened thought lies not in obscurantism, but in further Enlightenment."