New Scholarship on the Enlightenment

Fascinating review of Jonathan Israel’s new scholarship on the European Enlightenment, in particular the influence of philosopher Baruch Spinoza by Robert Leventhal.

In particular, note the definition of the “Radical Enlightenment”:

1) philosophical reason as the criterion of what is true;
2) rejection of supernatural agency (divine providence);
3) equality of all mankind (racial and sexual equality);
4) secular universalism in ethics anchored in equality and stressing equity, justice, and charity;
5) comprehensive toleration and freedom of thought;
6) personal liberty of lifestyle between consenting adults, safeguarding the dignity and freedom of the unmarried and homosexuals;
7) freedom of expression, political criticism, and the press in the public sphere; and
8.) democratic republicanism.

While Leventhal praises Israel’s defense of Spinoza’s influence, he also says that

One can reasonably advocate all of the values and moral precepts Israel attributes to the Radical Enlightenment on pragmatic grounds and not be a metaphysical monist. In other words, we do not need to believe in Spinoza’s metaphysics to believe in democracy, freedom of expression, social justice, equality, fairness, and tolerance. We can, but do not need to, align historical truth with progressive values. We can, but are not required to, adopt a naturalist vision of science and philosophy to be thoughtful and moral citizens.

Ibn Khaldun on History

“It should be known that history, in matter of fact, is information about human social organization, which itself is identical with world civilization. It deals with such conditions affecting the nature of civilization as, for instance, savagery and sociability, group feelings, and the different ways by which one group of human beings achieves superiority over another. It deals with royal authority and … with the different kinds of gainful occupations and ways of making a living, with the sciences and crafts that human beings pursue as part of their activities and efforts, and with all the other institutions that originate in civilization through its very nature.” — Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (d. 1406) The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, (trans. Franz Rosenthal, Routledge 1958) v. 1, p. 71, cited in Civilization (11e), 217.

Extra Credit Opportunity: Mad Scientists in Literature

The 18th Annual Victor J. Emmett Memorial Lecture is scheduled for September 29, at 8 pm, in 409 Russ Hall on the Pittsburg State University campus.

This year’s lecturer is Janice Law Trecker, mystery writer, painter, and recently retired lecturer in English at the University of Connecticut. Her lecture topic will be “How Mad Scientists Created Monsters and Saved the Soul,” and will deal with the popular novels Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and others. A brief award ceremony and reception will follow the lecture.

The Emmett Memorial Lecture is named in memory of the late Dr. Victor J. Emmett, Jr., who from 1967 to 1990 was a Professor of English at Pittsburg State University. During that time he also served as Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, Editor-in-Chief of “The Midwest Quarterly,” and Chair of the English Department. The Emmett Lecture is sponsored by the Emmett family, the PSU English Department, and “The Midwest Quarterly.”

Additional information about Ms. Trecker, particularly about the mystery novels and stories she writes and publishes, can be found at her web site,