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The Enlightenment’s Legacy Prof Mark Knights. Key questions Why is it important for modernists to understand the Enlightenment? What was its legacy and.

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Presentation on theme: "The Enlightenment’s Legacy Prof Mark Knights. Key questions Why is it important for modernists to understand the Enlightenment? What was its legacy and."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Enlightenment’s Legacy Prof Mark Knights

2 Key questions Why is it important for modernists to understand the Enlightenment? What was its legacy and why is that legacy a controversial one? Isms: liberalism, socialism, conservatism, romanticism, fascism, colonialism, racism,sexism Is the Enlightenment a useful term, does it have a coherence, a common set of values?

3 The Enlightenment Legacy for the Modern World 1)Liberalism: toleration of opinion and of religions; separation of church and state; consensual government; free speech; free market (social progress through the market; consumerism; capitalism); natural rights (right to resist tyranny in self-defence, natural equality and liberty, sexual liberty). 1859, John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

4 2) Socialism Brotherhood and sociability Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762) Natural equality. Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality (1754). Utilitarianism – the greatest happiness of the greatest number The French revolution and social revolution Rational planning. Henri Comte de Saint-Simon ( ), founder of French socialism, influence on Karl Marx – eradicating the hand of greed; planned society Charles Fourier ( ), another Utopian socialists thinker – decent minimum wage to eradicate poverty and communal approach to society Fourier’s Phalanstère (1834) "Liberty Leading the People", (Eugene Delacroix, 1830).

5 3) Scientific and medical mentalities Confidence in scientific approach Public health, hospitals Scientific societies (Lunar Society) Museums and collections Science and industry Scientific truth

6 4) International community C18th era of warfare – large-scale wars on a frequent basis. 7 Years War : war on a global scale. Wars against France Enlightenment critique of war based on emergence of international law – right of states to defend themselves but also benefit of peaceful co-existence Saint-Pierre, Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace (1712); Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant both wrote schemes for ‘perpetual peace’ via international communities League of Nations , United Nations (1945), European community

7 Rejecting or questioning the Enlightenment Important to recognise that ‘enlightening’ was a contested process in the eighteenth century. Strong adherence amongst some to the ‘ancien régime’, including at the popular level.

8 A satire of Joseph Priestley and Tom Paine, supping with the devil and depicted as dangerous

9 1) Conservatism Particularly in response to the French revolution Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), rejected natural rights in favour of what was tried and tested eg monarchy and church Joseph de Maistre ( ) stressed hierarchy, order, church (catholic) Regimes of Burke’s Reflections bearing down on Dr Price

10 2) Romanticism Edmund Burke's Philosophical Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) Influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the Enlightenment critiquing itself): reaction against the excessive stress on reason, instead emphasising emotion and feeling, including rapture of nature. The Confessions (completed 1770, pub. 1781) – self-conscious autobiography. ‘I must have mountain torrents, steep rocks, firs, dark forests, mountains, roads to climb or descend, precipices at my side to frighten me’. Brothers Grimm’s folk tales ( ) Romantic movement of s Irrationalism s psychology

11 3) Colonialism Global empires, c The Enlightenment was strongest in colonising nations

12 4) Racism: ambiguities On the one hand a drive against intellectual slavery On the other, the C18th witnessed the enslavement of many (6 million Africans transported by Britain, France, Spain, Holland) Categorisation of exotic peoples – notions of primitive, savage. Enlightenment could lead to a sense of alienation over the people or things that were dominated. Cultural superiority? Rousseau and Denis Diderot attempted to praise ‘noble savage’; and Voltaire attacked the fact that the price of sugar consumption was slavery; but more done against the slave trade by evangelicals? A Maori chief as drawn by Sydney Parkinson, Thomas Cook’s artist (1769)

13 5) Sexism: ambiguities Some traditional ways of thinking: Rousseau in Emile (1762) ‘Sophie should be a woman as Emile is a man.… woman is specially made to please man’. Attacked by Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) : Is one half of the human species, like the poor African slaves, to be subject to prejudices that brutalise them, when principles would be a surer guard, only to sweeten the cup of man? Is not this indirectly to deny woman reason? for a gift is a mockery, if it be unfit for use Marquis de Sade, Juliette (1797), sexual freedom – what were the limits?

14 6) Fascism and absolutism Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762): the force of the general will, forcing to be free Enlightened absolutism: harnessing enlightened ideals to enhance the power of the state, particularly in eastern Europe (Prussia, Russia, Austria). Bureaucratic domination. All subjects become instrumental to the state. Theology displaced by a form of rationality.

15 Francisco de Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Etching and aquatint (Caprichos no. 43: El sueño de la razon produce monstruos.),

16 The critique of Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment [1944, 1947] “The flood of detailed information and candy-floss entertainment simultaneously instructs and stultifies mankind; progress becomes regression…. Enlightenment is as totalitarian as any system” "In the most general sense of progressive thought, the Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty. Yet the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant” ‘ Mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism’ ‘We are wholly convinced that social freedom is inseparable from enlightened thought. Nevertheless, the notion of this very way of thinking already contains the seed of the reversal universally apparent today’

17 Irresponsible, fantastical utopianism Thinkers as dreamers, enthusiasts whose cult of reason was irrational. Adorno and Horkheimer, ‘Pure reason became unreason’. Belief in human perfectibility and progress is naïve and dangerous Progress and reason defeat themselves: ‘Progress has a tendency to destroy the very ideas it is supposed to realise and unfold. Endangered by the process of technical civilisation is the ability of independent thinking itself. Reason today seems to suffer from a kind of disease. This is true in the life of the individual as well as of society. The individual pays for the tremendous achievements of modern industry, for his increased technical sill and access to goods and services, with a deepening impotence against the concentrated power of the society which he is supposed to control’.

18 7) The postmodern challenge Critical of the Enlightenment’s notion of ‘truth’; post-modernism stresses relativism notions of class, gender and race meta-narrative of progress of Western civilisation and claim to be the ‘origins’ of modernity confidence in human agency – rather post-modernism stresses the way in which cultures shape individuals its sense of domination – intellectual, cultural, colonial, environmental (has a scientific way of thinking about crop production been a good thing?)

19 Useful term? Is the Enlightenment a useful term, does it have a coherence, a common set of values? It has evolved to mean many different things. ‘the’? Enlightenments – according to time and place? According to status, gender, race Do the ideas of the Enlightenment still have any use for us in the C21st? Is it the cause of all ills? Is its approach wrong-headed? Do we have confidence in progress and reason?

20 Kant, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment Enlightenment is man’s release from his self- incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. This tutelage is self- incurred when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own reason! That is the motto of the Enlightenment


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