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Twilight of the Enlightenment

The Art Fair, the Culture Industry, and the ‘Creative Class’

Judith Kapferer

The complicity of the arts and the state in the mutual legitimation of corporate market practice is addressed in this critique of the so-called culture industries and 'Creative Class' of late capitalist imagination. The certification of the state-market couple as the dominant ideology of national, transnational, and post-national politics and economics is examined through an analysis of the Frieze Art Fair between 2006 and 2009. I contend that the decline of a culture-debating society and the rise of a culture-consuming society herald the waning of a habit of independent rationality and informed argument that characterized Horkheimer and Adorno's 'Enlightenment project'. The managerialist moment in the arts (as in education) signifies the diminishing status of culture as the cornerstone of an enlightened social formation.

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Jeffrey D. Burson

This article considers the methodology of entangled history and its potential for nuancing or circumventing scholarly controversies over the nature and extent of the Enlightenment in eighteenth-century religious thought. After sketching the development of entangled history theory and its potential applicability to studying the Enlightenment, the rest of the article provides a case study of one way in which the insights discussed in the first parts of the article can be applied to current controversies about how historians construct the concept of Enlightenment. As will be shown, the transdiscursive entanglement of Jesuit missionary output with the debates between Voltaire and Bergier illustrates the mutability and rhetorical malleability of historical paradigms concerning the Enlightenment and religion.

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David Allen Harvey

Despite its long-standing reputation for skepticism and irreverence, the Enlightenment took religion quite seriously. Historians have long recognized this fact, and have often represented the intellectual history of the eighteenth century in terms of the struggle between religious faith and philosophical skepticism. One common view of the period holds that religious dogmatism and intolerance, memorably condemned by Voltaire as l’Infâme, served as the negative pole against which the positive Enlightenment ideals of secularism, reason, and tolerance were articulated. Nearly a century ago, Ernst Cassirer characterized this view (which he did not entirely share) by writing, “French Encyclopedism declares war openly on religion,” accusing it of “having been an eternal hindrance to intellectual progress.” Around the same time, Carl Becker argued that the eighteenth-century philosophes sought to recast the “heavenly city” imagined by church fathers such as St. Augustine into a vision of a terrestrial utopian future. A generation later, Peter Gay described the philosophes as “modern pagans,” who “used their classical learning to free themselves from their Christian heritage.” For such scholars, the historical signifi cance of the Enlightenment lay in its break with religious tradition and embrace of “modernity”, defined primarily by secularism and rationality.

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Charles Bradford Bow

This article examines the “progress” of Scottish metaphysics during the long eighteenth century. The scientific cultivation of natural knowledge drawn from the examples of Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), John Locke (1632–1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was a defining pursuit in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Aberdonian philosopher George Dalgarno (1616–1687); Thomas Reid (1710–1796), a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society known as the Wise Club; and the professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University Dugald Stewart (1753–1828), contributed to that Scottish pattern of philosophical thinking. The question of the extent to which particular external senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) might be improved when others were damaged or absent from birth attracted their particular interest. This article shows the different ways in which Scottish anatomists of the mind resolved Molyneux’s Problem of whether or not an agent could accurately perceive an object from a newly restored external sense.

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Whitewashing History

Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence

Philip Dwyer

In Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, there is a before and an after. Before the Enlightenment, the world was superstitious, cruel, and violent; after the Enlightenment, the world was rational and more peaceful. Pinker thus reduces violence to a fairly simplistic concept: all violence can be equated with irrationality, unreason, and ignorance. History is never as straightforward as Pinker would have his readers believe, and violence is a much more complex notion that is often driven not by superstition or unreason, but perfectly “rational” motives. This article argues that there is little causal connection between Enlightenment values and the decline in violence and that changes came about as a result of a complex series of reasons, some of them less than edifying. It raises the interesting question of whether ideas drive history, or whether they are simply the “ideological” bedrock on which change is grounded.

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Cat Moir

This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.

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Ronald Schechter

This article argues that the term “holy” (saint/sainte) was a key word in the French revolutionary lexicon during the Terror. Its use was comparable in frequency to the terms “glorious” and “useful”. Among the many things revolutionaries regarded as “holy”—for example, liberty, equality, the constitution, the laws, and the revolution itself—by far the most often cited was the “Mountain”. Historians have assumed that “Montagne” simply referred to the deputies who occupied the upper benches in the National Convention, but an analysis of the term “holy Mountain” shows that the real significance of the name came from its analogy to Mount Sinai. Revolutionaries venerated the Mountain as a source of divine laws and as a force with the godlike capacity to punish “impious” enemies. The concept indicates an authentic religiosity among the revolutionaries, who are otherwise seen as heirs to the Enlightenment, and therefore questions the traditional opposition between Enlightenment and religion.

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Introduction

A Focus on the History of Concepts

Eirini Goudarouli

The special section “Knowledge Quests in the European Periphery” attempts to explore the different ways in which conceptual history’s methodologies could be applied to disciplines with which traditional conceptual historians have not previously engaged, such as the history of science, political economy, Enlightenment studies, postcolonial history, and transnational history. This special section, when read as a whole, opens up a multidisciplinary space in which center-periphery tensions are examined in the context of conceptual transnational exchange. Coming from different geographical places and cultural spaces within the European periphery, the three case studies draw their methodological background from conceptual history and aim to reflect on the center-periphery dichotomy by asking how historians from different historiographical traditions could take advantage of the methods and theories of conceptual history, as well as how conceptual history could take advantage of the coming together of disciplines that traditionally do not communicate with each other.

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Andrew Levy

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the least studied in the Bible. It should be more closely analysed for its critique of conventional, more ‘normative’ biblical books. Its relevance to contemporary thought has been unwittingly highlighted recently. Its argument against the normative view in the Bible mirrors arguments made in a recently published book by the British philosopher John Gray against the work of the Canadian psychologist and neuroscientist Steven Pinker. Ecclesiastes raises issues fundamental to contemporary discourse, such as whether we live in a world that progresses or whether the world is static and one where we are condemned to repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. This article demonstrates that current arguments, apparently deriving from Enlightenment thought, actually have origins going much further back. The author finally asks whether there really is nothing new under the sun. It is an article with a twist in the tail.

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In The Eyes of Some Britons

Aleppo, an Enlightenment City

Mohammad Sakhnini

This article examines the travel accounts of some eighteenth-century British travelers to Aleppo. It shows how these travelers’ identities were steeped in the world of others—in the entanglement with people from different cultures and religions—with no mention recalled in their diaries that Islam and Muslims were their enemies. As this article shows, these Britons posited Aleppo as a multi- cultural, multireligious city in which Europeans were not only men of riches and influence but also free to pursue their cultural and religious practices. This article concludes by emphasizing that British enlightenment practices—toleration, improvement, and freedom—were pursued both within European grand cities such as Paris, Edinburgh, and London as well as in Aleppo.