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The Age of Enlightenment: Steam engines, Encyclopedias, Revolutions, & Invisible Hands CVSP 203 General Lecture March 31, 2015 Hani Hassan

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Presentation on theme: "The Age of Enlightenment: Steam engines, Encyclopedias, Revolutions, & Invisible Hands CVSP 203 General Lecture March 31, 2015 Hani Hassan"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Age of Enlightenment: Steam engines, Encyclopedias, Revolutions, & Invisible Hands CVSP 203 General Lecture March 31, 2015 Hani Hassan (

2 “The Enlightenment has been blamed for many things. It has been held responsible for the French revolution, for totalitarianism, and for the view that nature is simply an object to be dominated, manipulated, and exploited […] It is said that its passion for rights and liberties unleashed a destructive individualism that undermines any sense of community. Yet it has also been argued that its assumption that human nature was infinitely malleable has provided the intellectual inspiration for totalitarian states to eradicate all traces of individuality from their subjects.[…] Looking over this list of charges, one wonders how one period could have been responsible for so much and so many different kinds of harm. Puzzled by the multitude of accusations leveled against it – and astonished at the diversity of its critics – one might well ask, “What is Enlightenment?” (What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth Century Answers and Twentieth Century Questions, Introduction, page 1)

3 Thomas Paine

4 Serendipity


6 “In France, the number of titles doubled between mid-century and the outbreak of the Revolution, while in Germany it has been estimated that more than half a million publications of various kinds appeared during the course of the century.” (Short Oxford History of Europe: The Eighteenth Century, page 4) “it is only in the mouths of those firm and equitable men who compose the public… that we can find the language of truth.” (Short Oxford History of Europe: The Eighteenth Century, page 4)




10 The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties…

11 I. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. IV. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

12 “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility.” The French Revolution “will only take effect when all women become fully aware of their deplorable condition, and of the rights they have lost in society.”

13 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 1689 –1762

14 “Our right is the same with theirs to all public employments; we are endow'd, by nature, with geniuses at least as capable of filling them as theirs can be; and our hearts are as susceptible of virtue as our heads are of the sciences. We neither want spirit, strength, nor courage, to defend a country, nor prudence to rule it.” Woman not Inferior to Man, Conclusion


16 D’Alembert Diderot


18 Truth veiled Reason and philosophy attempting to unveil Truth Imagination Poetry, Drama… The various arts Theology Geometry, Astronomy and physics The various sciences…

19 “The work whose first volume we are presenting today has two aims. As an Encyclopedia, it is to set forth as well as possible the order and connection of the parts of human knowledge. As a Reasoned Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades, it is to contain the general principles that form the basis of each science and each art, liberal or mechanical, and the most essential facts that make up the body and substance of each.” (D’Alembert introducing the Encyclopedie)

20 “In truth, the aim of an encyclopedia is to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structure to the men with whom we live, and to transmit this to those who will come after us, so that the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries, that our children, by becoming more educated, may at the same time become more virtuous and happier, and that we may not die without having deserved well of the human race.” (From Diderot’s entry on the Encyclopedie)

21 “…the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth…” “…that our children, by becoming more educated, may at the same time become more virtuous and happier…”


23 “What an excellent work is that with which our common friend Mr. Adam Smith has enriched the public! An extensive science in a single book, and the most profound ideas expressed in the most perspicuous language". (The Life of Adam Smith, John Rae, first published 1895; The Floating Press, 2009)

24 “The growth and decay of nations have frequently afforded topics of admiration and complaint to the moralist and declaimer: they have sometimes exercised the speculations of the politician; but they have seldom been considered in all their causes and combinations by the philosopher. The French economical writers undoubtedly have their merits. Within this century they have opened the ways to a rational theory, on the subjects of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce. But no one work has appeared amongst them, nor perhaps could there be collected from the whole together, anything to be compared to the present performance, for sagacity and penetration of mind, extensive use, accurate distinction, just and natural connection, independence of parts…

25 It is a complete analysis of society, beginning with the first rudiments of the simplest manual labor, and rising by an easy natural gradation to the highest attainments of mental powers. In which course not only arts and commerce, but finance, justice, public police, the economy of armies, and the system of education, are considered and argued upon, often profoundly, always plausibly and clearly; many of the speculations are new, and time will be required before a certain judgment can be passed on their truth and solidity.” (Edmund Burke’s review of Adam Smith, An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in Annual Register 19 (1776), 241). Source: the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder:

26 An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

27 “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self- love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” (Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter II, section 2)

28 In other words: Self- interest  propensity to barter and trade  development of division of labor  wealth of nations ∴ Self – interest  wealth of nations

29 “Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from […] the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employment most suitable to the interest of the society.” (Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter IX, section 51)

30 “According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to (...): first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions…” (Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter IX, section 51)

31 “The education of the common people requires, perhaps, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the public more than that of people of some rank and fortune. (…) The employments too in which people of some rank or fortune spend the greater part of their lives, are not, like those of the common people, simple and uniform. They are almost all of them extremely complicated, and such as exercise the head more than the hands…”

32 “It is otherwise with the common people. They have little time to spare for education. Their parents can scarce afford to maintain them even in infancy. As soon as they are able to work, they must apply to some trade by which they can earn their subsistence. That trade too is generally so simple and uniform as to give little exercise to the understanding; while, at the same time, their labour is both so constant and so severe, that it leaves them little leisure and less inclination to apply to, or even to think of anything else.” (Wealth of Nations, Book V, Part III, Article II)

33 “While the Enlightenment was a European event, the debate on the question “What is Enlightenment?” was uniquely German.” (What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth Century Answers and Twentieth Century Questions, Preface ix)

34 “This question, which is almost as important as what is truth, should indeed be answered before one begins enlightening! And still I have never found it answered!” (J. F. Zollner, cited in Schmidt’s What is Enlightenment, Introduction page 2)

35 An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? December 1784, Immanuel Kant

36 “Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.”

37 “Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. “Sapere Aude!” Have courage to use your own understanding!" - that is the motto of enlightenment.”

38 “that the public should enlighten itself is more likely; indeed, if it is only allowed freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. For even among the entrenched guardians of the great masses a few will always think for themselves, a few who, after having themselves thrown off the yoke of immaturity, will spread the spirit of a rational appreciation for both their own worth and for each person's calling to think for himself…” “…a public can only attain enlightenment slowly.”

39 “A greater degree of civil freedom seems advantageous to a people's spiritual freedom; yet the former established impassable boundaries for the latter; conversely, a lesser degree of civil freedom provides enough room for all fully to expand their abilities.”


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