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Truth, Lies, and Terror
Enlightenment & Counter-Enlightenment
in the French Revolution,
with Lessons for Today

Edward Berstine, PhD 




This book is about the role of belief in political action.  Such belief, often unfounded by empirical evidence, can animate extreme action such as violence and the overthrow of political systems.


How does such belief have the power to engage people to risk their lives and others, and to kill others?  


To explore this concern, we use the French Revolution as a case study, and look at several persons who played a role in this moment in history.  Indeed, all the case studies are studies of fanaticism in some form, leading to dire consequences for the agent with ample collateral damage.


We then discuss matters of belief, science, and myth and their role in the lives of our cast of characters.


We suggest we are amid an Enlightenment counter-revolution, which, we will discuss, was inevitable.


We conclude with a discussion of the challenges of statecraft, the various resorts given conflict between and among groups, and the enduring tension between empirical science and non-empirical belief.


We promote the notion of “ironism” within a pragmatic framework as the panacea to all of this, with the attending problem of how to deal with fanatics.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Forms of History 

Chapter 1.: Socrates Accepts His Death 

Chapter 2.: Religion and the State  

Chapter 3.: Jean Calas - The Old Regime at Work in 1762 

Chapter 4.: Marat’s Constancy 

Chapter 5.: Charlotte Corday’s Great Adventure in Paris 

Chapter 6.: Lavoisier 

Chapter 7.: Robespierre and Counterrevolution 

Chapter 8.: The Commission to Censure Mesmer

Chapter 9.: Jacques-Louis David 

Chapter 10.: Truth, Belief, Ironism, and Fanaticism 

Chapter 11.: Counterrevolution in 21st-Century America 

Chapter 12.: Designs for Governments 


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