Catalogue


The roads to modernity : the British, French, and American enlightenments /
Gertrude Himmelfarb.
edition
1st edition.
imprint
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
description
xii, 284 pages ; 22 cm.
ISBN
1400042364, 9781400042364
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
isbn
1400042364
9781400042364
contents note
Prologue -- The British Enlightenment : the sociology of virtue. "Social affections" and religious dispositions ; Political economy and moral sentiments ; Edmund Burke's Enlightenment ; Radical dissenters ; Methodism : "a social religion" ; "The age of benevolence" -- The French Enlightenment : the ideology of reason -- The American Enlightenment : the politics of liberty -- Epilogue
local note
From the Library of a Jesuit Art Historian.
abstract
"The Roads to Modernity reclaims the Enlightenment - an extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about the human condition in the realms of 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, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophy - humane, compassionate, and realistic - that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps ever more so than in Europe." "This is a contribution to the history of ideas."--Jacket.
catalogue key
5226962
 
Includes bibliographical references (pages 237-276) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
1. "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,"[1] 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."[2] 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 influence on the moral philosophers or on the issues that dominated the British Enlightenment. (His Opticks, on the other hand, was an inspiration for poets, who were entranced by the images and metaphors of light.)[3] John Locke, too, was a formidable presence in eighteenth-century Britain, a best-selling author and a revered figure. But among the moral philosophers he was admired more for his politics than for his metaphysics. Indeed, the basic tenets of their philosophy implied a repudiation of his. What made them "moral philosophers" rather than "philosophers" tout court was their belief in a "moral sense" that was presumed to be if not innate in the human mind (as Francis Hutcheson thought), then so entrenched in the human sensibility, in the form of sympathy or "fellow-feeling" (as Adam Smith and David Hume had it), as to have the same compelling force as innate ideas. Locke himself could not have been more explicit in rejecting innate ideas, whether moral or metaphysical. The mind, as he understood it, so far from being inhabited by innate ideas, was a tabula rasa, to be filled by sensations and experiences, and by the reflections rising from those sensations and experiences. The title of the first chapter of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding was "No Innate Speculative Principles" (that is, epistemological principles); the second, "No Innate Practical Principles" (moral principles). Even the golden rule, that "most unshaken rule of morality and foundation of all social virtue," would have been meaningless to one who had never heard that maxim and who might well ask for a reason justifying it, which "plainly shows it not to be innate." If virtue was generally approved, it was not because it was innate, but because it was "profitable," conducive to one's self-interest and happiness, the promotion of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, things could be judged good or evil only by reference to pleasure or pain, which were themselves the product of sensation.[4] Locke's Essay was published in 1690. Nine years later, the Earl
First Chapter
1. "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,"[1] 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."[2] 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 influence on the moral philosophers or on the issues that dominated the British Enlightenment. (His Opticks, on the other hand, was an inspiration for poets, who were entranced by the images and metaphors of light.)[3]

John Locke, too, was a formidable presence in eighteenth-century Britain, a best-selling author and a revered figure. But among the moral philosophers he was admired more for his politics than for his metaphysics. Indeed, the basic tenets of their philosophy implied a repudiation of his. What made them "moral philosophers" rather than "philosophers" tout court was their belief in a "moral sense" that was presumed to be if not innate in the human mind (as Francis Hutcheson thought), then so entrenched in the human sensibility, in the form of sympathy or "fellow-feeling" (as Adam Smith and David Hume had it), as to have the same compelling force as innate ideas.

Locke himself could not have been more explicit in rejecting innate ideas, whether moral or metaphysical. The mind, as he understood it, so far from being inhabited by innate ideas, was a tabula rasa, to be filled by sensations and experiences, and by the reflections rising from those sensations and experiences. The title of the first chapter of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding was "No Innate Speculative Principles" (that is, epistemological principles); the second, "No Innate Practical Principles" (moral principles). Even the golden rule, that "most unshaken rule of morality and foundation of all social virtue," would have been meaningless to one who had never heard that maxim and who might well ask for a reason justifying it, which "plainly shows it not to be innate." If virtue was generally approved, it was not because it was innate, but because it was "profitable," conducive to one's self-interest and happiness, the promotion of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, things could be judged good or evil only by reference to pleasure or pain, which were themselves the product of sensation.[4]

Locke's Essay was published in 1690. Nine years later, the Earl
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-07-01:
Himmelfarb (emeritus, Graduate Sch., CUNY) separates the French Enlightenment from the British and American Enlightenments, which she views as the expression of a moral philosophy found primarily in the writings of Adam Smith, David Hume, and Edmund Burke. Himmelfarb argues that a moral sentiment throughout the writings of these British philosophers led to an Age of Benevolence, in which a practical altruism prevailed in the Anglo-Saxon realm-a sentiment not commonly associated with these icons of the conservative pantheon. Conversely, she views the French Enlightenment as a more abstract and dogmatic intellectual phenomenon; the French philosophes' insistence on the compassionless primacy of Reason over the lesser emotions ultimately led to the bloody excesses of the Reign of Terror. In conclusion, she asserts that in America the moral sentiments expressed by Smith, Hume, and Burke are now embodied in George W. Bush's fading call for compassionate conservatism. Grounded in the texts, from which she quotes copiously, and sure to be controversial, this vibrant example of intellectual history should be in both academic and public libraries.-Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2005-05-01:
This book is a brief explication and defense of the British Enlightenment in comparison with the French and American versions. In purpose, it resembles Roy Porter's The Creation of the Modern World (CH, Sep'01, 39-0537) but has a narrower focus. The British Enlightenment is interpreted as a quest for the "sociology of virtue," built largely on British moral thought, in contrast to a French "ideology of reason" and an American "politics of liberty." Himmelfarb (emer., City Univ. of New York) claims there is a "social ethic explicit or implicit in each of these Enlightenments," and that contemporary "compassionate conservatism" and the renewed interest in "civil society" are rooted in the British exploration of links between religion and virtue. In support, there are discussions of Edmund Burke and Methodism as integral, rather than antithetical, to the movement. Also interesting is an account of Adam Smith's economics in a moral reform context. True to the purpose of the work, discussions of the French and American Enlightenments are not as original. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. R. P. Gildrie Austin Peay State University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-05-31:
Himmelfarb, a leading neoconservative historian of ideas (One Nation, Two Cultures, etc.), takes on the ambitious project of reclaiming the Enlightenment from what she sees as delusionary French thinkers and restoring it to the (apparently) virtuous moderation of the English. The French Enlightenment, she claims, was excessively preoccupied with reason and insufficiently concerned with individual liberty; the philosophes idealized Man in the abstract but despised the common man. In contrast, a distinctively humane British Enlightenment was underpinned by ideals of social virtue: compassion, benevolence and sympathy. These thinkers were tolerant and pragmatic, convinced that private self-interest and public welfare were ultimately compatible. Their legacy, Himmelfarb argues, exerts a major influence on contemporary U.S. culture. Himmelfarb's book is both sophisticated and accessible, and makes some valuable revelations: Adam Smith's hostility to the "business class"; Burke's antipathy to British rule in India. One wonders about the value of the term "Enlightenment" when it is so broad as to encompass John Wesley, and the author's exaltation of the English-speaking philosophical tradition appears particularly problematic in her treatment of the American Enlightenment. Was the American Civil War, allegedly fought in defense of liberty, any less terrible than the infamous Terror? Nonetheless, this is a book with important ideological implications that deserves to be read and debated across the political spectrum. (Aug. 27) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Support[ed] with great passion and wide-ranging scholarship. . . . Himmelfarb has written a keenly argued and thought-provoking intellectual history of the 18th century." San Francisco Chronicle "Exciting intellectual pugilism E Himmelfarb mounts a vigorous argument that the British [Enlightenment] was reformist rather than subversive, respectful of the past and present even while looking forward to a more egalitarian future." The New York Times Book Review "[Himmelfarb's] writing . . . has a verve and sharpness. . . . It is a pleasure to read." The New York Review of Books "Exceptionally well written and clever."The Washington Post Book World "Himmelfarb has one of the keenest intellects of our time." The Houston Chronicle
"Support[ed] with great passion and wide-ranging scholarship. . . . Himmelfarb has written a keenly argued and thought-provoking intellectual history of the 18th century." San Francisco Chronicle "Exciting intellectual pugilism E Himmelfarb mounts a vigorous argument that the British [Enlightenment] was reformist rather than subversive, respectful of the past and present even while looking forward to a more egalitarian future." The New York Times Book Review "[Himmelfarb's] writing . . . has a verve and sharpness. . . . It is a pleasure to read." The New York Review of Books "Exceptionally well written and clever."The Washington Post Book World "Himmelfarb has one of the keenest intellects of our time." The Houston Chronicle From the Trade Paperback edition.
This item was reviewed in:
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Publishers Weekly, May 2004
Library Journal, July 2004
Booklist, August 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, August 2004
Wall Street Journal, September 2004
Washington Post, September 2004
New York Times Book Review, October 2004
Choice, May 2005
New York Times Book Review, October 2005
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Summaries
Main Description
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 the human condition in the realms of 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, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophy–humane, compassionate, and realistic–that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more so than in Europe. This is an illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.
Main Description
One of our most distinguished intellectual historians gives us a brilliant revisionist history. The Roads to Modernityreclaims the Enlightenmentan extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about the human condition in the realms of politics, society, and religionfrom 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, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophyhumane, compassionate, and realisticthat still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more so than in Europe. This is an illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.
Main Description
One of our most distinguished intellectual historians gives us a brilliant revisionist history. The Roads to Modernityreclaims the Enlightenmentan extraordinary time bursting with new ideas about the human condition in the realms of politics, society, and religionfrom 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, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophyhumane, compassionate, and realisticthat still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more so than in Europe. This is an illuminating contribution to the history of ideas. From the Hardcover edition.
Unpaid Annotation
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 the human condition in the realms of 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, Gertrude Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy of the British and the wisdom and foresight of thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Edmund Burke, who established its unique character and historic importance. It is this Enlightenment, she argues, that created a moral and social philosophy-humane, compassionate, and realistic-that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more so than in Europe. This is an illuminating contribution to the history of ideas.
Table of Contents
Preface
Prologue
The British Enlightenment: The Sociology of Virtue
"Social Affections" and Religious Dispositions
Political Economy and Moral Sentiments
Edmund Burke's Enlightenment
Radical Dissenters
Methodism: "A Social Religion"
"The Age of Benevolence"
The French Enlightenment: The Ideology of Reason
The American Enlightenment: The Politics of Liberty
Epilogue
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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