The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers
by Carl Becker

Historicism applied to the 18th century. Like Bailyn, Becker believes that the commitment of these men to the ideal of liberty has been underestimated, but unlike Bailyn, Becker sees this commitment as a defect rather than a virtue. He considers it naive to believe in justice, and he shows that they made a pseudo-religion of enlightenment. He criticizes them for trying to interpret history to support their philosophy. He implies that there is an alternative, which he likes to think of as objective history.

The book is well written and thought provoking. A good, but skeptical, overview of 18th century political and moral thought.

Year Read: 1974

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