Carl Becker, Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers

Our thirst for dichotimization is satisfied by descriptions of the Enlightenment as a victory of reason over the forces of reflexive emotions and unsubstantiated ideology. On a relative scale that portrayal makes some good sense. But we have Becker to thank for reminding us that Voltaire, Diderot, Hume and Locke did not burst onto the stage minus the baggage of the emotivism of St. Augustine. In the simplest of terms, none of these heroes of Reason escaped the lure of “reasoning” perhaps characterized best as “argument from tradition.”

Especially valuable is his historical work that embeds typical natural law arguments emerging from the mouth of Justice Scalia in the same natural law phrasings as were used by Voltaire and Hume.  That portrayal broke some ice loose in my head certainly.

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