The Heretics, The Wondrous and Dangerous Beginnings of Modern Philosophy

Heretics The Wondrous and Dangerous Beginnings of Modern Philosophy by Steven Nadler and Ben Nadler, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford 2017

If anything might entice you to explore the philosophical development of the 17th century this book would do the job. People whose names might be only vaguely familiar, like Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Newton, and others, and about whose specific views we may not be quite clear, suddenly come alive. This is a graphically illustrated telling of why and how they challenged the accepted wisdom of their time. The story that is told is also about how dangerous thinking ‘outside the box’ has been at times in our human history.

In many ways Nadler and Nadler have given us a teaser.  While describing the arguments, disagreements, and risks that these thinkers involved themselves with we are drawn into taking sides and arguing back. We react to the various theses and find our own reasoning process activated.  This is the slippery slope that lands us in the philosophical soup of exploring our own views on religion, government, spirituality, ethics, the nature of reality and everything else we think we believe.  Actually, not a bad place to be – an environment that invites and encourages questions and the very value of questioning itself. In the words of Socrates “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  If you like the idea of thinking for yourself let this book tickle you into doing it.

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