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Book Title: The Enlightment: an Interpretation|
The author of the book: Peter Gay
Edition: Alfred A Knopf
Date of issue: 1969
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 36.24 MB
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Gay provides an interesting dialectical model: the philosophes opposed ancient paganism to medieval Christianity in order to create an autonomous "modern paganism" (vol. I). And his writing is beautiful.
Ultimately, though, his picture of the Enlightenment is thoroughly teleological and at times cartoonish. In Gay's account, for example, deism and natural law are just an earlier stage in the evolution of atheism and utilitarianism (I, p. 18). (Their respective exponents would have been very surprised to hear it.) And when the Enlightenment came along, it banished the darkness of Christianity with a "spectacular career of the natural sciences, advances in medicine, the improvement of manners and growth of humanitarian sentiment, the slow crumbling of traditional social hierarchies, and revolutionary changes in the production of food, the organization of industry, the pattern of population -- all pointing in the same direction" (II, 8).
So inexorable is this change, apparently -- the philosophical changes being "inevitable" results of the economic and cultural change (II, ix) -- that the New Deal was incipient in the ancien regime: "Rational public administration and rational statistics were in their infancy, but they foreshadowed the modern welfare state. While the decay of the guilds and the decline of clerical orders redounded mainly to the advantage of industrial and commercial capitalism, behind the troops of laissez-faire marched the clerks of government regulation" (II, 8).
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Read information about the authorThe son of a glassware maker, Peter Joachim Fröhlich grew up in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. Escaping in 1938 with the rest of his family on the last boat of refugees admitted to Cuba, he gained entry with them to the United States two years later, whereupon he changed his name to Gay. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1946 and earned a master's and doctorate in history from Columbia University.
Gay taught at Columbia from 1947 until 1969. In 1969 he joined the faculty at Yale University, where he taught until he retired as Sterling Professor of History in 1993. He was a former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers from 1997 until 2003. Gay was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the received the American Historical Association's (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction.
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