Jonathan Israel  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Jonathan Irvine Israel (born 26 January 1946) is a British writer and academic specialising in Dutch history, the Age of Enlightenment and European Jews. Israel was appointed as Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, in January 2001. He was previously Professor of Dutch History and Institutions at the University College London.

In recent years, Israel has focused his attention on a multi-volume history of the Age of Enlightenment. He contrasts two camps. The "radical Enlightenment" founded on a rationalist materialism first articulated by Spinoza. Standing in opposition was a "moderate Enlightenment" which he sees as profoundly weakened by its belief in God. In Israel’s highly controversial interpretation, the radical Enlightenment is the main source of the modern idea of freedom. He contends that the moderate Enlightenment, including Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, made no real contribution to the campaign against superstition and ignorance.

See also

  • Counter-Enlightenment
  • Comments by Margaret Jacob in "Spinoza Got It", London Review of Books (8 November 2012): 26–27. Israel used the title (but not subtitle) of her book, "The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans", paperback, 2006 (first edition 1981). Also by Jacob: "The Radical Enlightenment and Freemasonry: Where we are now", Philosophica 88 (2013) pp. 13–29.

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