Is the next Age of Enlightenment already here or imminent?

In recent years, two of the most intellectually stimulating books I have read were written by Anthony Gottlieb: The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (2000; Second Edition, 2016) and The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy (2016).

In the latter volume, Gottlieb explains, “The first [enlightenment] was the Athens of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, from the middle of the fifth century to the late fourth century BC. The second was in northern Europe, in the wake of Europe’s wars of religion and the rise of Galilean science. It stretches from the 1630s to the eve of the French Revolution in the late-eighteenth century. In those relatively few years, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau, and Voltaire — most, that is, of the best- known philosophers — made their mark.”

More recently, in his classic study The Origins of Creativity (2017), Edward O. Wilson expresses an affirmation I wholly support:

“Scientists and scholars in the humanities, working together, will, I believe, serve as the leaders of a new philosophy, one that blends the best and most relevant from these two great branches of learning. Their efforts will be the third Enlightenment. Unlike the first two, this one might well endure. If so, it will bring our species closer to realizing the prayer for reason inscribed by Diogenes and still visible in the original form on the Oinoanda stoa in ancient Greek region of Lycia.”

Presumably these “leaders of a new philosophy” will include world-class authorities on collaborative initiatives and high-impact innovations that include emerging digital technologies such as AI and IoT.

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Anthony Gottlieb (born 1956) is a British writer, author, historian of ideas, and former Executive Editor of The Economist. He is the author of two major works on the history of philosophy, the aforementioned The Dream of Reason and The Dream of Enlightenment.

A Two-Year Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from October 2017, Gottlieb has previously held visiting fellowships at All Souls and Harvard University, and has been a visiting scholar at New York University and fellow at the Cullman Centre for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He has also taught at the CUNY Graduate Center and the New School in New York. He is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the series editor of The Routledge Guides to the Great Books.

Gottlieb was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and University College London. He was formerly married to the British author Miranda Seymour.

To learn more about Gottlieb and his work, please click here.

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