Dupre has continued in this book his quest to 'explain the cultural physiognomy of the present age' that began in Passage to Modernity
. While Passage
focused on what Dupre has called the 'first modern revolution' of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (especially its emphasis on the creative role of the human person), this work focuses on the 'second modern revolution' of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Instead of producing yet another intellectual history of the Enlightenment, Dupre seeks 'to draw an intellectual portrait of a crucial epoch in European history with particular emphasis on the development and interaction of those ideas that most contributed to the formation of our own spiritual identity.' In addition to his analysis of the impact of Enlightenment ideas upon our own assumptions and attitudes, particularly our cosmological and religious ones, our sense of selfhood and our conception of art, Dupre also describes the various ethical, social, and historical theories that emerged out of these pivotal years. However, in contrast to recent trends of rejecting Enlightenment assumptions (frequently oversimplified dismissals of eighthteenth-century thought as mere rationalism), Dupre is less pessimistic. While admitting its rationalist tendency, he demonstrates that religion and morality remained at the forefront of the dialogue and argues that the real accomplishment for Western thought was its successful establishment of the principle that 'things ought to be justified rather than blindly accepted from habit and custom.' Regardless of one's estimation of the Enlightenment, its ideas and achievements have been knit into the fabric of our being and to ignore them would be a grave mistake. To read Dupre guarantees against such folly. 397 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
An eminent scholar of modern culture argues that the Enlightenment--the importance of which has been vigorously debated in recent years--was a more complex phenomenon than either its detractors or advocates assume.
"Ranging as it does over art, morality, religion, science, philosophy, social theory, and a good deal besides, Dupre's book] is a marvel of scholarly erudition. . . . Formidably well-researched, . . . this] would make an excellent introduction to Enlightenment ideas for the general reader."--Terry Eagleton, "Harper's Magazine
""This immensely readable book will cause readers to rethink the Enlightenment and to see its positive aspects. It will also add crucial historical perspective to current discussions of modernity."--Donald Verene, Emory University