Israel, J. I., Radical enlightenment. Philosophy and the making of modernity 1650-1750; Israel, J. I., Radicale Verlichting. Hoe radicale Nederlandse denkers het gezicht van onze cultuur voorgoed veranderden
Israel’s Enlightenment Revisited In his seminal study Radical Enlightenment (2001), Jonathan Israel has proposed a new interpretation of the early Enlightenment, emphasizing its radical aspect within the circles of Dutch philosophers, and the diffusion of the debate among a large audience. The side-effect of this thesis, as propagated by the author himself, is the reappraisal of the relationship between Enlightenment, religion and modernity in both the past and the present. The importance of this study and its attractive central hypothesis, however, justify a critical approach of its premises, concepts and methods. What exactly is ‘radical’? Isn’t this study more concerned with the history of the Dutch Republic than with Enlightenment? Is it correct to relegate religion to the sidelines? Would it not be preferable to propose a structurally different interpretation, less unilinear and teleological and more concerned about the relationship between thoughts and actions and the complexity of the personalities and situations involved? In short, is it legitimate to insert this interpretation into the canon of history?