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The Enlightenment and Original Sin : Life of Ideas - Matthew Kadane

The Enlightenment and Original Sin

By: Matthew Kadane

Paperback | 17 July 2024 | Edition Number 1

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An eloquent microhistory that argues for the centrality of the doctrine of original sin to the Enlightenment.

What was the Enlightenment? This question has been endlessly debated. In The Enlightenment and Original Sin, historian Matthew Kadane advances the bold claim that the Enlightenment is best defined through what it set out to accomplish, which was nothing short of rethinking the meaning of human nature.

Kadane argues that this project centered around the doctrine of original sin and, ultimately, its rejection, signaling the radical notion that an inherently flawed nature can be overcome by human means. Kadane explores this and other wide-ranging themes through the story of a previously unknown figure, Pentecost Barker, an eighteenth-century purser and wine merchant. By examining Barker's personal diary and extensive correspondence with a Unitarian minister, Kadane tracks the transformation of Barker's consciousness from a Puritan to an Enlightenment outlook, revealing through one man's journey the large-scale shifts in self-understanding whose philosophical reverberations have shaped debates on human nature for centuries.

Industry Reviews
"A scintillating story of how the Enlightenment came into being but was also resisted, a narrative revisited through the eyes of a 'nobody' in mid-eighteenth-century England as well as through the usual authorities. Written with verve, this book is a masterpiece of layered intellectual history." * David D. Hall, Harvard University *
"Remarkably erudite and powerfully written, Enlightenment and Original Sin gives us a new origin story of the Enlightenment and our own materialist mores. Kadane offers a brilliant and previously untold deep dive into how the British Dissenting view of original sin would reshape Protestantism in Britain and America at a key moment to create essentially a modern form of Christianity." * Jacob Soll, author of Free Market: The History of a Dream *
"With remarkable clarity and original archival work, Kadane forcefully demonstrates how individuals made the conversion away from traditional religiosity to enlightened principles. Thanks to this groundbreaking work, the Enlightenment becomes lived experience, not simply a set of abstract ideals." * Margaret C. Jacob, University of California, Los Angeles *

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