Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion

Un diner des philosophes by Jean Huber

We often designate the 18th century as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason due to the pervasive confidence in rationality and the burgeoning optimism that distinguished the era. According to many virtuosos of rationalism, the possibility of mitigating all of our problems – social, psychological, and material – seemed not just feasible but inevitable.

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Nothing Exceeds like Excess

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini

From the early Seventeenth century to the early Eighteenth, artists abandoned the moderation of Renaissance classicism for a luxurious, embellished style that better expressed the extremes of their times. During this period, ongoing brutal doctrinal wars that began with the Reformation diminished the prestige and authority of Christendom. The appalling Thirty Years war (1618-1648) that devastated central Europe and reduced Germany’s population by a third, was but one of the conflicts initiated between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

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A History of Nothing

Chapter 1: In the Beginning… There was Nothing.

Chapter 2: Ex Nihilo

Chapter 3: We Know Nothing

Chapter 4: Null and Void

Chapter 5: Nihil Perpetuum Est

Lucretius

Seneca

Chapter 6: Apropos of Nothing

Chapter 7: A Crack of Light between Two Nothings

Chapter 8: Nihil Sub Sole Novum

Machiavelli

Montaigne

Shakespeare

Chapter 9: Nothing Exceeds like Excess

Pascal

Chapter 10: Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion

Jonathan Swift

Voltaire

de Sade

Chapter 11: Sweet Nothings