The Enlightenment is having a moment. Cognitive psychologist, linguist, and public intellectual Steven Pinker has made it the subject of his latest best-seller, Enlightenment Now. As usual, Pinker is everywhere. His fluorescent-orange dust-jacket typeface shouts at me from bookstore displays, from dozens of reviews in the media, and from college library study-carrels. I imagine encountering students for whom “the Enlightenment” is not a foreign concept but rather a buzzword. I join the masses and read the book.

“Foremost is reason. Reason is nonnegotiable,” runs Pinker's punchy prose—for he is also author of The Sense of Style, a linguist's present-day challenge to the oldfangled and yet ageless Elements of Style by Oliver Strunk...

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