1st Edition

Reassessing the Radical Enlightenment

By Steffen Ducheyne Copyright 2017
    330 Pages
    by Routledge

    330 Pages
    by Routledge

    Reassessing the Radical Enlightenment comprises fifteen new essays written by a team of international scholars. The collection re-evaluates the characteristics, meaning and impact of the Radical Enlightenment between 1660 and 1825, spanning England, Ireland, the Dutch Republic, France, Germany and the Americas. In addition to dealing with canonical authors and celebrated texts, such as Spinoza and his Tractus theologico-politicus, the authors discuss many less well-known figures and debates from the period. Divided into three parts, this book:

    • Considers the Radical Enlightenment movement as a whole, including its defining features and characteristics and the history of the term itself.
    • Traces the origins and events of the Radical Enlightenment, including in-depth analyses of key figures including Spinoza, Toland, Meslier, and d’Holbach.
    • Examines the outcomes and consequences of the Radical Enlightenment in Europe and the Americas in the eighteenth century. Chapters in this section examine later figures whose ideas can be traced to the Radical Enlightenment, and examine the role of the period in the emergence of egalitarianism.

    This collection of essays is the first stand-alone collection of studies in English on the Radical Enlightenment. It is a timely and comprehensive overview of current research in the field which also presents new studies and research on the Radical Enlightenment.

    List of figures

    Notes on contributors


    Steffen Ducheyne


    1. ‘Radical Enlightenment’ – A Game-Changing Concept

    Jonathan I. Israel

    2. The Radical Enlightenment: A Heavenly City with Many Mansions

    Margaret C. Jacob

    3. Of Radical and Moderate Enlightenment

    Harvey Chisick

    4. The Emergence of the ‘Radical Enlightenment’ in Humanist Scholarship

    Frederik Stjernfelt



    5. Spinoza the Radical

    Nancy Levene

    6. Spinoza on Natural Inequality and the Fiction of Moral Equality

    Beth Lord

    7. John Toland’s Origines Judaicae: Speaking for Spinoza?

    Ian Leask

    8. Radical Atheism: Jean Meslier in Context

    Charles Devellennes

    9. The Waning of the Radical Enlightenment in the Dutch Republic

    Wiep van Bunge


    10. Less Radical Enlightenment: A Christian Wing of the French Enlightenment

    Eric Palmer

    11. Materialism at the University of Göttingen: Between Moderate and Radical Enlightenment

    Falk Wunderlich

    12. Radical Enlightenment and Revolution in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland

    Ultán Gillen

    13. De Sade – An Heir to the Radical Enlightenment?

    Winfried Schröder

    14. Empathy, Equality, and the Radical Enlightenment

    Devin Vartija

    15. The Radical Enlightenment and Movements for Women’s Equality in Europe and the Americas (1715–1825)

    Jennifer J. Davis

    General Index


    Steffen Ducheyne is Research Professor at the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is the author of “The Main Business of Natural Philosophy”: Isaac Newton’s Natural-Philosophical Methodology (2012).

    "The appearance of this volume is to be welcomed because it brings together a group of experts in order to offer an overview of the current state of the debate and to look in detail at areas of contention. Collections of essays are notoriously something of a curate’s egg, but Steffen Ducheyne is to be congratulated for assembling a distinguished and interdisciplinary team of historians and philosophers and, more importantly, for persuading them to keep to their brief. (...) this volume will, at least, give both professional scholars and students a valuable introduction to a complex and contentious field."

    - Julian Swann, Birkbeck College, University of London

    "(...) it is an extremely important addition to any historical library, whether public or private. Its strength is that it evenhandedly presents numerous issues that truly engage the conceptualization of the Enlightenment, and it is unafraid of presenting views that conflict—sometimes starkly—with the field’s dominant historian. It is not, however, an introduction to the Enlightenment or even to the Radical Enlightenment. It is a rich and nuanced work aimed at students of the Enlightenment already familiar with fundamental interpretive and historiographical issues."

    - John D. Eigenauer, Professor of Philosophy, Taft College

    "This highly-readable, intelligently assembled collection of essays represents a significant, original, inspiring contribution to the study of the Enlightenment. This volume is indeed likely to become a standard book for all those interested in the Radical Enlightenment."

    - Diego Lucci, American University in Bulgaria

    "Ducheyne has put together a volume which achieves his aim of providing an introduction to the ‘Radical Enlightenment’ and the debates surrounding it. But this collection is much more than just a textbook on a historiographical debate- there is plenty here to interest the experts as well. The question of what constitutes the radicalism of the Enlightenment is not resolved, but there is much here to fuel discussion. That, to my mind, is a strength of the volume."

    - Sarah Hutton, University of York

    "...there can be no question that this companion volume accomplishes its twin aims: “to provisionally provide a (partial) synthesis of the state of the art and, second, to push forward research on the Radical Enlightenment by a series of new studies” (2). This edited volume is the best distillation presently available of work pertaining to the Radical Enlightenment for new researchers, graduate students preparing for qualifying examinations, and more seasoned researchers alike. Indeed, individual chapters could be useful for advanced undergraduates as well."

    -Jeffrey D. Burson, Georgia Southern University