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HERETICS! by Steven Nadler


The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy

by Steven Nadler illustrated by Ben Nadler

Pub Date: June 20th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-691-16869-2
Publisher: Princeton Univ.

From Copernicus and Galileo through Newton and Voltaire, this graphic history explores a century of philosophical awakening that put the world of thought on a brand new orbit.

Philosophy is fun! That’s debatable, but Steven Nadler (Philosophy and Humanities/Univ. of Wisconsin; A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, 2011, etc.) and illustrator Ben Nadler do their best to bring both entertainment and enlightenment to the subject of how modern philosophical thought challenged the church’s doctrine on the relationship between God and man and led to democratic challenges to monarchy and the divine right of kings. The project confronts some pretty tough challenges of its own: it is mainly about thinking, which is difficult to illustrate. There is little in the way of action, other than the occasional heretic put to death for his beliefs, and some of these ideas are complex, as is the path through which one philosophical treatise leads to the next. Nonetheless, the text and illustrations nimbly advance through a little more than a century in fewer than 200 pages, presenting a primer that can instruct those new to the period while serving as a refresher for readers who have forgotten what they studied in history and philosophy. Though the philosophers continued to disagree about matter and spirit, fate and free will, God and mankind, “they believed that the older, medieval approach to making sense of the world—with its spiritual forms and…its concern to defend Christian doctrine…no longer worked and needed to be replaced by more useful and intellectually independent models.” By the time of Isaac Newton, pretty much everything that had once been believed was up for grabs, with man no longer at the center of creation, the sun no longer spinning around the Earth, and the church no longer an authority on matters that were now subject to scientific inquiry.

So much changed in such a short period of time, as illustrated by this effective graphic encapsulation.