The Enlightenment and Modernity ... • Why is it important for modernists to understand... • What was its legacy and why is that...

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The Enlightenment and Modernity
Mark Knights
• Why is it important for modernists to understand the Enlightenment?
• What was its legacy and why is that legacy a controversial one?
• ‘Isms’
• Is the Enlightenment a useful term, does it have a coherence, a common
set of values? Is it useful as a set of ideas/ideals?
Legacies:
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).
2) Socialism (Rousseau; Utilitarianism; Henri Comte de Saint-Simon
(1760-1825), Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
3) Scientific and medical mentalities
4) Internationalism [Saint-Pierre, Project for Settling an Everlasting
Peace (1712)]
Questioning or even rejecting the Enlightenment:
5) Conservatism [Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution
(1790), Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821)]
6) Romanticism [Burke's Philosophical Inquiry into the Sublime and
Beautiful (1757); Rousseau, The Confessions (completed 1770, pub.
1781)]
7) Colonialism
8) Racism
9) Sexism
10) Fascism and Absolutism
Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment
[1944, 1947]
11) Post-modern challenge
Is the Enlightenment useful, both as a term and as a ‘project’?
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