By Philipp Blom
A depraved Company tells the awesome tale of Baron Thierry Holbach’s Parisian salon, an epicenter of freethinking that introduced jointly the best minds of the 18th century. Over wine-soaked dinner events, the best intellectuals of the Western worldfigures comparable to Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, Horace Walpole, and Benjamin Franklinmatched wits and scandalized each other with their very own ever-more-provocative principles. Writers of genius all, packed with wit and braveness (but additionally own contradictions, doubts, conflicts of moral sense, and their fair proportion of open arguments and love affairs), this team of buddies embodied an striking radicalism in ecu inspiration, so uncompromising and impressive that its bracing, freeing, humanist imaginative and prescient has nonetheless now not been absolutely discovered. As acclaimed historian Philipp Blom indicates, those thinkers’ research of our tradition continues to be as legitimate because it was once then, and has misplaced little of its capability to shockor to strength us to confront with new eyes debates approximately our society and its destiny.
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Extra resources for A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment
Because of war conditions it 24 was impossible to get money from England. He was thus stranded abroad without a livelihood, and with a family to support. Russell was rescued from this dilemma ﬁrst by Harvard University, which generously invited him to lecture in 1940, and then by a Philadelphia millionaire, Dr Barnes, a passionate collector of art who had established a Foundation for the study chieﬂy of art history. He gave Russell a ﬁveyear contract to lecture at the Foundation. To his amusement, and despite thinking it incongruous with academic philosophy, Russell gave his lectures in a room hung with French paintings of nudes.
The perspective of time either enlarges or diminishes those who have occupied the public view. Most dwindle into foothills (which is to say, footnotes); a few rise to Himalayan majesty. Among their peaks Russell stands high. 28 Chapter 2 Logic and philosophy Introduction By his own account, Russell’s chief philosophical motive was to ﬁnd out if anything can be known with certainty. This ambition, identical to that of Descartes, had risen in him as a result of two early intellectual crises: his loss of religious faith, and his disappointment at having to accept unproven axioms as the basis of geometry.
In 1912 he had written a novel but not attempted to publish it; now he wrote two collections of short stories, more accurately fables, all with philosophical or polemical intent, called Satan in the Suburbs and Nightmares of Eminent Persons. In 1956 he published Portraits From Memory, a series of sketches of eminent people he had known, and in 1959 he gave the world his intellectual autobiography, My Philosophical Development, which summarizes the progress of his views from childhood onwards. But any idea that Russell had ﬁnally entered the Establishment fold, and would subside into grandly respectable and quiescent old age, was mistaken; for Russell saw that the world was beset by a horrifying and rapidly growing danger which he felt it imperative to resist.