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.
David Allen Harvey
Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence
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.
A Pluralized View of the Enlightenment Discourse of Improvement
This article shows how the Enlightenment notion of improvement in a cross-cultural context cannot be one of constant polarization. Without ever travelling to the Middle East, the Scottish Enlightenment literati proposed that the Middle East is backward and primitive in its economic and material infrastructure. Europe is progressing while the Middle East remained stuck in ancient times. John Carmichael could not escape the European repository of knowledge about the Orient. In his “Journey from Aleppo to Basra” (1754), he sometimes considered Arabs are irrational, backward and primitive. Yet the conditions of traveling in an Arab caravan invited him to interact with the people he encountered. He socialized and exchanged services with the Arabs. At the same time he learned how modern progress needs not be looked at as one of complete banishment of ancient rituals and traditions from the past. The journey in the Middle East has its educational effects.
Time, Public Credit, and David Hume’s Political Discourses
Edward Jones Corredera
This article explores David Hume’s views on public credit, the state, and geopolitics as outlined in his Political Discourses. By drawing attention to Hume’s analysis of the speed of political economic dynamics, the article suggests the philosopher feared that public credit, a crucial source of eighteenth-century European economic growth, fundamentally revolutionized the pace of social relations, the mechanics of the state, and European geopolitics at large. Hume’s study of public credit highlighted its role in reshaping eighteenth-century visions of time, and the philosopher’s disappointment with his own solution, in turn, reinforces the need to consider the multifaceted effects of public credit in the modern world.
The Art Fair, the Culture Industry, and the ‘Creative Class’
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.
anthropologist’s venture. In fact, Wolf foregrounds what years later would appear in Bruce Kapferer’s (2001) acute diagnosis of anthropology as a ‘paradox of the secular’. To Wolf (1964) , anthropology both confirms the secular project of the Enlightenment and
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.
Reflections on the Concept of Unnati (Progress) in Hindi (1870–1900)
This article analyzes the historical semantics of the concept of unnati in the nationalist discourse in Hindi between 1870 and 1900. The article first outlines the basic features of the Enlightenment concept of progress using Koselleck's analysis. It then goes on to discuss the place of the concept of progress in the colonial ideology of a “civilizing mission,“ and concludes by taking up the analysis of the usage of the term unnati in the nationalist discourse in North India.
Reducing human character, characteristics, and behavior to biological conditions of people or specific categories of them has long been an aspect of science, and emerges from The Enlightenment. It is in some senses a part of an heroic attempt to find the cause and effect explanations of everything—to provide consistent explanation of everything from falling stones to the determinates of ‘intelligence’ and criminal minds. These explanations are based in materiality. Gould (1981) provides a good summary of much of this.
Delivering the Goods but Destroying Public Trust?
This paper discusses the impact of an important trend in service delivery in response to the substantial pressures that now face European welfare states: the New Public Management, combining centrally imposed targets and the promotion of market systems within state services. It traces the logic underlying the reform back to the rational self-regarding actor theories of human behaviour of the Enlightenment. Using the example of the UK NHS, recently reformed in a way that follows the rational actor paradigm, it considers the impact on long-term public trust.