A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment

By Adams, David | The Historian, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment


Adams, David, The Historian


A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment. By Philipp Biota. (New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 2010. Pp. xxii, 361. $29.95.)

This book's author seeks, first, to fill an allegedly important gap in the study of the French Enlightenment by concentrating on the writers and thinkers (particularly Diderot and, to a lesser extent, Hume) who were, sometimes disparagingly, known as the "coterie holbachique." His second aim is to demonstrate that "their works still richly repay rereading, and their careers can serve as both an inspiration and a warning to us" (xx).

Philipp Blom's assiduous study of the "coterie" focuses on its radical ambitions for the reform of pre-Revolutionary French society; hence he properly emphasizes its desire to end the paralyzing intellectual and spiritual influence of the Catholic Church and to promote atheism. Blom also rightly draws attention to the neglect of the ideas of the "coterie" at the Revolution and afterwards as the deistic thought of Voltaire and Rousseau took hold, turning them into the now-archetypal representatives of the French Enlightenment. In such a climate, the hardheaded scientific approach to social and moral questions taken by men such as Diderot and d'Holbach found few adherents, and their ideas had to wait until the twentieth century to be appreciated at their true value.

Even in summary, however, Blom's views cause some unease. True, scholars have mostly neglected d'Holbach, the last of the (very few) book-length studies of his works having appeared as long ago as 1976. But it is simply not true that Diderot "has been reduced to the role he most despised: that of the collator of other people's articles and ideas" as editor of the EncyclopSdie (x).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?