The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb - review by Peter Jones

Peter Jones

No Hiding Place

The Dream of Reason


Allen Lane The Penguin Press 468pp £20 order from our bookshop

The first Western philosophers that we know of were Ancient Greeks living on and off the coast of western Turkey in the sixth century BC. They earn the title because they tried to explain how the world worked by appeal to logos – let us translate it as ‘reason’ – and not to divine diktat. In other words, they insisted that the world be humanly intelligible and explicable without reference to the activities of supernatural beings. That did not mean they disbelieved in such beings. They just discounted them for intellectual purposes. Similarly today, a medical researcher may have strong Christian convictions but he does not invoke them in his work.

If the world was rational, reason was all that was needed to reveal it. Essentially, these early thinkers settled down on a comfortable sofa with a cigar, a bottle of Scotch and a copy of Lit Rev for diversion, looked about them and thought – concluding that the world was

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