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The Age of Genius

The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind

A. C. Grayling

Bloomsbury USA

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ISBN10: 1620403447
ISBN13: 9781620403440


368 Pages



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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.


Praise for The Age of Genius

"Grayling is a model of clarity . . . As a survey of the period, The Age of Genius is fascinating. Grayling is particularly good on the dissemination of ideas and the physical transmission of information around Europe . . . As an account of the development of ideas during one of the most exciting periods in Western history, The Age of Genius excels. Its scope is remarkable and it wears its learning lightly."Literary Review

"[A] sweeping, lively historical survey . . . Another thought-provoking winner from Grayling."Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

A. C. Grayling

A.C. Grayling is professor of philosophy at and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society and is a prolific author whose books include philosophy, ethics, biography, history, drama and essays. He has been a regular contributor to the Times, Financial Times, the Observer, the Independent on Sunday, the Economist, the Literary Review, New Statesman, and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programs, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week, and CNN News. Among his recent books are Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggle for Liberty and Rights that Made the Modern West, Liberty in the Age of Terror, Descartes, The Good Book: A Secular Bible, and The God Argument.