Interpreting the Enlightenment
How Much Enlightenment?
Single, unified movement—“The Enlightenment”, propagated not only through western societies in
Europe, but throughout the North American society as well.
Best understood as a variety of different and distinct national movements—break down by nation
English enlightenment dominated by Isaac Newton (took theories of that century and put
altogether into one system that can explain natural phenomenon.
Explains type of science that
Europeans were doing at the time.
French used the term “Lumieres”; Diderot was a major component
made encyclopedia, put all
knowledge of human wolrd and gather it to present it in a sensible/rational fashion
Major intellectual challenge, a lot more provocative
Germany used the term “Aufkarung”; Kant was the key figure; more tentative and moderate, he
wanted reforms, more openness, less censorship in a polite and respectful tone.
tentative challenges to existing order, but a lot more tame compared to French Enlightenment
Growth of the Public Sphere
Habermas looks at spaces where public intellectual space is done, and calls the sum locations where
work is done the “Public Sphere”
Before, people did work in private, never shared. By 18
century, people have regarded intellectual
work as something that should be done in public that is open and transparent.
Do work in full view of
general public and get feedback on that work. No longer monopolized by tiny elite, but now open to
Main features of the Enlightenment
Human Reason and the Quest for Truth
Philosophers of European Enlightenment were unified in faith in human reason (humans can use
rationality to understand world, place in the world, and understand human relations); human reason is
perfect for understands for everything, can use rationality in quest for truth.
Thought if people applied
their intellectual powers, they can answer all questions, solve all mysteries, unlock secrtes of natural
and human world. Think they found method to solve the world’s problems and can solve problems that
they have been stuck on for ages
“What is Enlightenment?”—what this movement actually means
Man’s leaving his self caused immaturity (a process of growing up, human society is getting
Use own intelligence—that is your own Enlightenment.
It takes courage, dare to know, use
strength of your own conviction.
Distribution of knowledge, emphasis of human reason
Common for philosophers to make direct challenges towards religion
Scientific thinking, you can understand everything of natural world by rational natural laws,
Religion is the ignorance of natural causes reduced by a system—they take
their ignorance, formalize it, and believe it.