The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind

The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 1620403447

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Age of Genius explores the eventful intertwining of outward event and inner intellectual life to tell, in all its richness and depth, the story of the 17th century in Europe. It was a time of creativity unparalleled in history before or since, from science to the arts, from philosophy to politics. Acclaimed philosopher and historian A.C. Grayling points to three primary factors that led to the rise of vernacular (popular) languages in philosophy, theology, science, and literature; the rise of the individual as a general and not merely an aristocratic type; and the invention and application of instruments and measurement in the study of the natural world.

Grayling vividly reconstructs this unprecedented era and breathes new life into the major figures of the seventeenth century intelligentsia who span literature, music, science, art, and philosophy--Shakespeare, Monteverdi, Galileo, Rembrandt, Locke, Newton, Descartes, Vermeer, Hobbes, Milton, and Cervantes, among many more. During this century, a fundamentally new way of perceiving the world emerged as reason rose to prominence over tradition, and the rights of the individual took center stage in philosophy and politics, a paradigmatic shift that would define Western thought for centuries to come.

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Bulletin (1934) Jones, J. R., The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century (London and New York, 1996) Jue, J. K., Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism (Dordrecht, 2006) Kahn, D., Entre atomisme, alchimie et théologie: la réception des thèses d’Antoine de Villon et Etienne de Clave contre Aristote, Paracelse et les ‘cabalistes’ (24–25 août 1624) (London, 2001) Kant, Immanuel, Was ist Aufklärung (1784), full text available at

extensions of the Emperor’s writ. Denmark was a wealthy state, mainly because of revenues from the tolls imposed on shipping in the Baltic. Christian accordingly had means as well as motive. The rulers of the Lower Saxon Circle states, which was his sphere of interest, rallied to him – only two dukes and the Hanseatic towns were persuaded by Ferdinand II to remain neutral. In response to the gathering of forces under Christian, Maximilian of Bavaria commissioned Wallenstein to raise an army, and

league, its chief decision being to provide a large subsidy to Sweden to maintain its military endeavour. Talk of subsidies was not quite the same thing as their being paid. In some cases arrears of pay in the Swedish army stretched back five years and more. Mutterings about mutiny forced Oxenstierna to act; he offered some of his senior officers titles and grants of land in lieu of pay. One of the chief beneficiaries was Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, who was made Duke of Franconia. To pacify the

Netherlands, and English naval support for a French invasion, was intended to dent the Dutch commercial threat in the wider world. But the Dutch had a superb naval commander in Michiel de Ruyter and a canny military tactician in William of Orange, against whom the combined efforts of the two powerful states proved unavailing. It was in this war that the Dutch famously flooded the polders around Amsterdam to halt a French invasion; it was in this war too that the Dutch entered an alliance with

to assist in the interrogation of some of those brought to Bonner’s attention. How did this happen? Biographers of Dee appear not to know what to make of it, and speak instead of the fact that Dee not only was neither Protestant nor Catholic in his sympathies, but appeared to have his own distinct and separate views about religion. This would not be surprising for someone keen on Cabala and Hermeticism and the latter’s implication of a prisca theologia. But the scant evidence seems to suggest a

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