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Highly disappointed with this book. I especially enjoyed Blom’s skewering of Jean Jacques Rousseau, whom history views as one of the towering figures of the Enlightenment. Admittedly, this is not meant to be the central topic of the book. Superb account of radical French Enlightenment intellectuals, Diderot and d’Holbach, whom the author believes history has forgotten, partly because they were bold enough to be atheists.

He is a professional historian who studied at Vienna and Oxford with a focus on eighteenth-century intellectual history.

It seems the philosophes knew exactly what Horace meant. Rousseau was a deist who rejected materialism and atheism.

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I felt like maybe it was supposed to be the former but often amounted to the latter, which diminished the former’s effectiveness. I actually enjoyed the concept of the salon, and found tantalizing parallels with Capponi’s An Unlikely Prince and Machiavelli’s attendance at Florentine salons much earlier.

For the first two-thirds of the book, Blom lets his sizeable bias against Rousseau get in the way of an otherwise much more objective piece of intellectual history. At times repetitive, this book by Austrian social historian Phillip Blom is nevertheless a terrific read. The book would have been far better had he stuck to showing the importance of the more radical thinkers without having to turn the more moderate philosophers into early Fascists.

The absolute monarchies of early modern Europe were legitimised by the Church but the general will was a secular concept that ran entirely counter to official politics. This seems an odd complaint, but I was more interested in the implications of their ideas than in the minutia.

And the book recounts how very intelligent men may have evolved in their thinking–something that gets flattened by such history class keywords as “enlightened despot”. The level of risk was much higher than it was among thinkers in Britain and America, with which I was more familiar.

Philipp Blom

The ideas expounded on by these protagonists are presented more or less historically in relation to the specific players involved; many of the ideas themselves Blom points out are not necessarily all that new at all, some extending phillipp least as far back as to Epicurus and Lucretius and the author briefly presents these ideas within their own specific histories — so there is often some overlapping involved but certainly not to the extent of creating confusion.


The weird thing is that his dislike of Voltaire and Rousseau his hobby horse feels so personal–weird because they are two very dead philosophers and I doubt he has had any run-ins with them. Even the form of the book would be revolutionary since its entries were arranged alphabetically giving no precedence to subjects such as theology, church history or social ranks.

It was a huge publishing success: De scherpe pen van Friedrich Nietzsche merkte hieromtrent op dat Voltaire de laatste grote geest van het oude Frankrijk was en Diderot de eerste grote geest van het nieuwe Frankrijk. Refresh and try again. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Zo wordt de link gelegd tussen enerzijds het peilgrosa onbekende Griekse epicurische denken via de Romein Lucretius en de wegbereiders Pierre Bayle en Baruch Spinoza en anderzijds Diderot en Holbach.

He distinguishes between a moderate deist Enlightenment and a radical Enlightenment. While in a godless universe there is no transcendental yardstick of an absolute, revealed Truth and Goodness, it is perfectly easy to see what is beneficial and what is harmful to people here and now. In their heart of hearts they were unwilling to confront the possibility that they themselves, the vast universe of every individual consciousness, could be as meaningless and as random as a leaf whirled into the air by a gust of fente.

Specifically, Blom argues that the greatest champions of reason in this era were d’Holbach and Diderot, while it’s fiercest enemy was Rousseau. The second volume in contains a number of articles by Holbach, he would eventually write more thanand the title page pays tribute to an unnamed person who is almost certainly Holbach. Romantic Enlightenment relates to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his followers. Veering from lush biography to pepigrosa on the ideas of humaneness, psychology, equality, freedom of thought, resistance to authoritarianism, and atheism, this book is an inspiring and involving discussion.

His uncle provided him with his name and the best education money could buy.

After giving some initial biographical information of the characters that loom the largest in the book — Diderot, Holbach, and Rousseau — we proceed to learn more about their thought and their circle of what are usually considered more minor friends. The result is reasonably interesting – this was a time of great intellectual ferment, and the focus on this fringe element as well as the sometimes gossipy factual background of the protagonists adds perspective to and partially upends?


Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. I did like the extra information regarding their lives, how they changed, and the reflectivity of viewing their lives through their respective philosophies.

Surely it will get better! Society Must Be Defended.

A very out of the blue look at the Enlightenment gsnte takes everything I’ve been taught so far and turns it on his head. I assume Philipp Blom used Holbach’s dinner table as an organizing principle to talk about dispirit characters related to a movement that was more in debate with getne than affecting an agenda on society. But on to the next!

Holbach enrolled at the University of Leiden in where he became a friend of John Wilkes, who went on to become a notorious English radical. So, a solid repast, but not a feast.

For Blom this puts him squarely in the moderate Enlightenment camp. Peligtosa writing, jumping timelines, and rambling points made this less enjoyable.

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A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment by Philipp Blom

Pholipp, who frequently visited Diderot while he was in prison, may already have known Holbach. Zijn oordeel over Rousseau is vernietigend en daarin slaagt hij de bal mis. Bijzonder leuk is de korte biografie van elke passant die achteraan het boek werd opgenomen en de vele citaten uit minder gekende en toegankelijke werken.

Nov 23, Lauren Albert rated it liked it Shelves: I figured, though, hey! I thought the conceit of a big dinner party was an interesting one to tell what amounts to a group biography, and certainly helped keep things both entertaining and engaging. If you’re thinking about giving this book a try, my best advice to you: Aug 04, Elliot Schnapp rated it really liked it.

Bkom highly recommend it. Or maybe just skip over the introduction.