Anthony Gottlieb’s new book is the second instalment in a planned three-part history of Western philosophy. The first volume, The Dream of Reason, took the story from Socrates and Plato to the Renaissance; this book opens with a backward glance at the demise of scholastic philosophy under the influence of Francis Bacon, popularly regarded deep into the 18th century as having liberated thought from the shackles of superstition by emphasising the virtues of the experimental method over the prejudicial assumptions propagated by medieval schoolmen. Gottlieb’s plan is to conclude with a final volume that will trace the course of modern philosophy from Immanuel Kant to the 20th century.
The Dream of Enlightenment is billed as an engaging account of the thought of leading philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Gottlieb certainly does engage his reader: a former executive editor of The Economist, he writes with easy elegance and pace as he takes you on a tour