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ENLIGHTENMENT Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (1995) What is Enlightenment?
During the eighteenth-century, when an Italian spoke of Illuminismo, he meant something vastly different to a German's Aufklärung, or a Frenchman's Lumiérs; hence the varied responses to the question posed by the Berlinische Monatsschrift, 'Was ist Aufklärung?'
For Moses Mendelssohn, the Enlightenment referred to an as yet incomplete process of education in the use of reason, which should, he thought, be accessible to all; hence his 'popular philosophy' interpretation of the term
Kant believed that the Enlightenment was about the application of reason, which in itself should be developed as far as possible; while aware that the boundless nature of reason could dissolve social, religious and political order into chaos, but also appreciated a brighter side to the Enlightenment; it was man's release from his 'selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit' - his "self-incurred immaturity"
Kant's essay reflected the nature of Frederick II of Prussia; Kant did not appreciate the view that Enlightenment was an uncomplicated process of progress towards rationality and rational social or political change; instead it was something altogether more unpredictable, to Kant and other 'enlightened thinkers', it was more a puzzle of process and problems than an intellectual list of social and political issues to resolve
Enlightenment was difficult to define even for those caught up in it; it was unstable, ambiguous, controversial, full of dangers and unpredictable outcomes; Outram's book sees the Enlightenment as a series of flash-points where individual projects altered society and government on a global scale
Until recently, historiography saw the Enlightenment as something which happened in France
French thoughts were taken as typical, but the overtly hostile attitudes of Voltaire and Diderot to the French Catholic Church were far removed from the interests shown by German thinkers such as Wolff and Leibniz.
French focus on royal and ecclesiastical power did not diffuse into the German enlightenment until the late 1790s
Earlier historiography focusses on the philosophy; cf. Cassirer's The Philosophy of the Enlightenment; presented the Enlightenment as bound between the lives of Kant and Leibniz; implication that it was a-political
Early post-war historians essentially reproduced Cassirer's interpretation; Gay's The Rise of Modern Paganism and The Science of Freedom; Gay's theory of the Enlightenment 'periodized' it; first came Voltaire, then Diderot, D'Alembert and Rousseau, before the late enlightenment of Kant; viewed the Enlightenment as something of a 'liberal reform programme', dwelling less on thinkers like Rousseau, who did not fit his model
Gay did however link the American Republic and English thirteen colonies to the Enlightened ideology; Franklin, Jefferson et al.; argued that the Declaration of Independence was something of a fruition of enlightened ideas; Gay's synthesis dominated the 1960s
By the 1970s, however, more complete extra-European models were emerging; cf. May's The Enlightenment in America and Aldridge's The Ibero-American Enlightenment; both snubbed out any view of the Enlightenment as a unified phenomenon; increasing expansion of geographical spread of "the Enlightenment"; Franco Venturi argued for the impact of Enlightenment in Greece, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Balkans and Russia; 1979 works Settecento riformatore and Utopia and Reform gave emphasis to the transmission of ideas through books, papers, pamphlets, writings, political events and conversation
1970s historians far more interested in the social aspect of Enlightenment; how its ideas were transmitted, used and responded to by societies (across the broad geographical spread which it now encompassed)
Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas and Foucault used the Enlightenment as something of a jumping-off point to the present
Horkheimer and Adorno used its paradoxical nature to explain the barbarism of the Second World War; Enlightenment had left no legacy which could resist the technologically-assured man-made death of the Holocaust
Habermas, however, gave a more positive view of the Enlightenment; he followed the Kantian line that the Enlightenment was not complete; he saw it as the creator of a "public sphere" in which public opinion could arise and critique traditional privileged forces; Habermas saw the enlightenment's culture of knowledge as allowing liberation through criticism, but where knowledge remained a commodity
Foucault, having originally been of the view that there was no continuity between the Enlightenment and modernity, then took up Kant's line that it was incomplete, and developed a new understanding of the use of reason in the public sphere as a mechanism for change
New awareness of many different enlightenments, whether national or regional, Catholic or Protestant, of Europeans or of indigenous peoples; demonstration of why eighteenth-century people failed to find a single definition Coffee Houses and Consumers: The Social Context of Enlightenment
Historians such as Chartier and Muchembled have examined the penetration of enlightened ideas through the various strata of society; from high to low culture - cf. Chartier, Cultural History: Between Practices and Representations (Ithaca, New York, 1988); Muchembled, Popular Culture and Elite Culture in France, 1400-1750 (London, 1985)
Some of the social spaces in which enlightened discussion occurred were no doubt carefully controlled, such as masonic lodges, learned academies and societies; others, such as coffee houses, public lectures, art exhibitions, libraries,
theatrical productions were commercial enterprises, open to those who could pay, and therefore attracted a variety of peoples - was the Enlightenment driven by financial gain rather than enlightened philosophy or conversation This was Habermas' "Public Sphere" Increased urbanisation, the spread of "polite culture" (see Klein) allowed enlightenment to flourish International language of leading enlightened intellectuals was French - Frederick the Great famously preferred to speak French instead of German Increased production and sale of newspapers, books, pamphlets, pictures etc. - all of which were mediums for the transmission across regional and national borders of enlightened concepts and ideas Not a trade confined to Europe - Americas, India, Caribbean, and present-day Indonesia; trade ships carried ideas to these colonies, and in return the colonies fuelled aspects of the European Enlightenment, including tea, coffee, sugar, as well as those colonials who had experienced indigenous cultures Homogenisation of indigenous cultures, as they were remoulded along a distinctly European model Printed word commanded a uniquely important position in the spread of ideas Literacy levels are largely unknown, and it is difficult to estimate how low down the social spectrum worded printed material could have penetrated; of course, in some clubs, coffee-houses and so on, one might expect an orator; in the Prussian Enlightenment, conversation was central, and so literacy was not so great a problem, perhaps?
In Leipzig, the book fair catalogue of 1764 contained some 5000 titles, whereas by 1800 the number had risen to 12,000 Rolf Engelsing has argued that throughout European societies, people read 'intensively' until about 1750, when there was a gradual shift to 'extensive' reading; he also saw reading 'extensively' as being something more introvert, less public - cf. Die Perioden der Lesergeschichte in der Neuzeit. Das statische Ausmass und die Sozialkulturelle Bedeutung der Leküre (1969); Der Bürger als Leser: Lesergeschichte in Deutschland, 1500-1800 (Stuttgart, 1974) Posible that this interpretation is too schematic and only fits a small sample from Engelsing's region Coffee-houses, relatively cheap lending-libraries were of vital importance to any shift to extensive reading Accessible to women as well as men, especially due to use of living languages rather than Latin, which had excluded those without classical school educations The period of the late eighteenth-century witnessed an increase in the popularity of the novel over theology across German, English and North American libraries - the development of the so-called "Republic of Letters" 1780 the editor of the literary survey the Histoire de la République des Lettres en France commented that the "republic of letters" preserved independence of thought… it was the realm of talent and thought Commercial aspect of Enlightenment; many of the writers of the most widely-read books are unheard of; it was these writers, rather than Diderot or Voltaire, who produced the bulk of what was read in "the Enlightenment" Independent, free-lance writers Darton's "Grub Street" produced certain attacks on the status quo than what came from the literary elites- many of whom were patrons of European monarchs, such as Frederick or Catherine the Great Darton depicted the members of Grub Street as anti-establishment, critical and envenomed of the small literary elite, and puts their alienation from the establishment by forceful criticism as one of the underlying factor leading to the collapse of the old-regime in France Further divide over gender; women came under attack from Grub Street, since their make-up insisted that they be governed by emotion rather than rationality Participation of women in the Republic undermined its legitimacy as a whole, to many eighteenth-century critics Enlightenment appeared to divert as much energy to designating entire social groups, such as women or peasants, as being impervious to the voice of reason, as it did to the construction of a better world for humanity Enlightenment also produced unity and discussion between various social elites, as in Britain, Prussia, and other lands; clergy and professors would discuss politics, industrialists would meet poets and doctors; rise of sociability Different in France and Italy, where learned academies were founded in many provincial towns Formally arranged and open to those who could pay the fee - in practice the local elites, gentry, clergy, commercial elites and wealthier members of medical and military professions Studies fragmentary of how deep enlightenment penetrated the other side of the social divide; studies of Bibliotheque Bleu - literary historians saw it as escapist, preventing poor folk from accessing truly enlightened debate; others, including Bolleme, saw it as evolving towards increasing harmony with enlightened thinkers However, there was no clear dividing line between "low" and "high" culture Chartier's studies give the impression of a traditional world of rural populations not touched too deeply by enlightenment in the lower strata of society (in "low culture") and Darnton's give a similar picture of urban apprentices in Paris Many enlightened thinkers saw rural population as incapable of comprehending enlightened debate Often enlightened social reformers who attempted to break down the barrier between enlightenment and rural society despaired of doing so, and indeed were largely unsuccessful Growth of public opinion meant there was a problem in defining the real "elite" - was it birth or intellect?
Issues concerning the control and spread of knowledge became important in the discourse between state and society, public and government, monarchies and social class
Enlightenment and Government: New Departure or Business as Usual?
Enlightened Absolutism - coined by Roscher and adopted by Koser in the nineteenth century - especially with reference to the rule of Frederick the Great Frederick II considered himself something of a "servant of the state" After the First World War, The International Commission on Historical Sciences labelled the concept of a relationship between Enlightenment and government as "Enlightened Despotism"; largely conceived as the impact of French thinkers on monarchies After WWII, the term came under sustained attack; it was anachronistic; there were few, if any, European monarchs who reigned despotically; Britain's was a King-in-Parliament issue; as historians gradually came round to the notion that "Enlightenment" was different from region to region, so did they make the conclusion that the relationships between Enlightenment and State were different too There must have been some relationship, however fervently sceptics argued, since Frederick and Catherine kept up lengthy correspondence with leading enlightenment thinkers, such as Diderot and Voltaire Venturi's Settecento riformatore showed beyond doubt the importance of enlightened ideas in government policymaking and attitudes Marxists waded in with an interpretation of Enlightenment as an "intellectual superstructure" which was used to gloss over the contradictions of values and interests, between aristocracy and bourgeoisie, feudalism and capitalism - cf. Anderson, Lineages of the Absolute State Cameralism was already an important feature of German-speaking areas of Europe; of great importance, and could be argued that it was this which divided Europe; those states with Cameralist thinking, those without In France, "Enlightenment" in political terms seemed only to become "grist to the mill of the competing court factions" It did not, as in Prussia, other German states and the central Habsburg lands, act as a unifying factor of the upper classes Enlightenment and Cameralism co-existed through the German lands, with an enlightened, Cameralist bureaucracy becoming more prevalent, though under the close supervision of the monarchs themselves The creation of such a "class" meant that enlightened, high-ranking bureaucrats became international, moving freely from state to state and homogenising programmes of economic and social reform across broad areas Cameralism was not anti-religious per se, but it did place great weight on the view of government as a machine for producing action and decisions, not äust a sacred symbol of unifying properties Rulers like Joseph II attacked the Church's hold over education by setting up secular schools Religious measures were taken for a number of reasons: economic, military, legal, social, and of gaining control over education, which was traditionally power vested in the ecclesiastical establishments Economic: Church owned considerable land; Enlightened attack on Church; Adam Smith enlightened thinker; Wealth of Nations; importance of industrial capacity; unlike Physiocrats, who saw it in land and agriculture Implementing or acting upon Smith's views would have meant challenging the well-defended (by ardent traditionalists) guild system which had spread across much of Europe In this area, the limits of Enlightenment were set by fear of social and political chaos So debates generated by the Enlightenment both effected and limited government policy By the end of the eighteenth-century, most major European states, as well as many minor ones, were committed to reform of certain areas, modifying specific interest groups such as trade guilds, sovereign legal bodies, aristocratic representative institutions and often economic and jurisdictional interests of the Catholic Church
Enlightenment Thinking About Gender
Great deal of Enlightened thought on the definition of femininity and gender
Increasingly, medical writings seemed to imply that women were a sub-species of human, in many respects, characterised by reproductive functions and a denied or expressed sexuality
Wollstonecraft pointed out that ideas of femininity supported by writers such as Rousseau, which designated women this subordinate role (inferior to and different from men), did nothing more, as Voltaire noted, than replicate in the domestic sphere the political system based upon privilege and arbitrary power - cf. Wollstonecraft, Vindication, 121-2
Enlightenment, she argued, was based on ideas such as "reason" and "virtue", which were alleged to be attainable by all human beings, yet Rousseau and medical writers denied them rationality, while "virtue" was defined for women in an exclusively sexual sense
Enlightenment, for all its claims of universality, struggled to place groups in society - not just women, but also lower social classes and other races; Rousseau argued that women's participation in politics was inherently harmful
Practice of Enlightenment set the stage for the purely masculine political culture created in the French Revolution Science and the Enlightenment
Science acted as a link between many areas of Enlightenment thought
Foucault proffered the suggestion that the development of Enlightenment science was paradigmatic (typical) of deep changes in the structures of all knowledge in the period; taxonomy, for instance, served not only as the dominant impulse for the pursuit of natural history, but as the organising principle for all intellectual activity - cf. Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
Science, for some historians, is therefore the cultural category of the Enlightenment, rather than that of religion which seemed so central to Hegel, yet the words "science" and "scientist" did not enter the English language until the 1830s, and therefore to talk of the "science" of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment is to commit an anachronism Importance of the meaning of "nature" in Enlightenment; nature was seen as an expression of God's ordering hand, and was therefore represented as being ordered itself Neapolitan historian Giambattista Visto argued in his Scienza Nuova (1725) that "natural philosophy" could never really be a secure form of knowledge Locke and Condillac (1715-1780) were of the mind that man could know only appearances through sense, not the real essence of external things; "ideas in no way allow us to know being as they actually are; they merely depict them in terms of their relationship with us, and this alone is enough to prove the vanity of the efforts of those philosophers who pretend to penetrate into the nature of things" - Entienne Bonnot de Condillac, Traîté des Sensations (Paris, 1754)
The Rise of Modern Paganism? Religion and the Enlightenment
"The greatest number still believe that the Enlightenment is concerned with almost nothing but religion" - Johann Pezzl, Marokkanische Briefe (Frankfurt und Leipzig, 1784)
"When all prejudice and superstition has been banished, the question arises: now what? What is the truth which the Enlightenment has disseminated in place of these prejudices and superstitions?" - Hegel, Phänomenolgie des Geistes
Gay subtitles one of his volumes on the Enlightenment as The Rise of Modern Paganism; an Enlightenment, in his view, which sought to undermine religious beliefs and organisations
Michel Vovelle saw a gradual decline in religious belief, which he describes as "dechristianisation" in the South of France; Gay, Vovelle and Thomas have therefore produced work which suggests either an absolute decline in religious belief or a radical shift in its meaning and context (Vovelle, Piété baroque et dechristianisation en Provence au XVIIIe siècle: Les attitudes devant la mort d'après les clauses des testaments)
For Hegel, Enlightenment was a contributor to the same objective as Reformation - human spiritual freedom; Hegel saw the Enlightenment, specifically in France, as an inherently religious movement; for Hegel, the Enlightenment, instead of fulfilling its historical mission to complete the Reformation, was in danger of destroying faith altogether - cf. Hinchmann, Hegel's Critique of the Enlightenment (Gainesville, FL, 1984), ch.5 and Trevor-Roper, The Religious Origin of the Enlightenment in Religion, Reformation and Social Change, 3rd edn. (London, 1984)
There were, understandably, differing conceptions of Enlightenment and religion among contemporary thinkers, and there was a small yet not insignificant group of leading intellectuals who fitted with Hegel's view that the Enlightenment was fervently anti-religious; materialists such as Julien de la Mettrie, who argued in L'Homme Machine (1747) that there no so thing as a soul; men, D'Holbach argued in Système de la Nature ou des lois du monde physique et du monde moral (Paris, 1769), should abandon religion completely to reconcile themselves with "nature"; Adam Smith sought self-interests rather than salvation
Hegel's analysis falls down when one considers Enlightenment outside France
Yet Enlightenment also some attempts to stabilise religious orthodoxy by demonstrating its acceptability to human reason, as well as powerful religious movements, such as the English Methodists, the "Great Awakening" in North America and the Pietist movement within the German states
The Enlightenment's strong debates on religious toleration arose in part due to the fact that it was heir to the Reformation in a very different sense to that understood by Hegel; it was not only heir to its potential legacy of intellectual freedom, but to the military and political conflicts to which Luther's attempts to reform the Catholic Church had given birth; just as religious conflicts ensued between states, they also erupted within them; "to a large extent, the Enlightenment's attempt to come to grips with the issue of toleration was also an attempt to confront its immediate past and to influence future outcomes
Despite intellectual tides in favour of religious toleration (for instance Voltaire's Traîté de la tolerance, 1763), it was not particularly easy for enlightened rules to legally implement enlightened ideology on the matter
Questions raised about monarchy, Church and state; many monarchs' legitimacy stemmed from their adherence to a particular Church - the French monarchs took an oath to extirpate heresy; English monarchs were head of the Anglican Church, and the King of Prussia was summus episcopus of the Lutheran Church - Enlightenment in theory and Enlightenment in practice were very different things; theory was not confined by practical nuances
For those rulers who implemented toleration had to base their legitimacy upon something other than religious sanction; debating toleration was ultimately debating the nature of kingship itself - an further intrinsic part of Enlightenment Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia Chapter 8: Dare to Know! (sapere aude!)
Prussian Enlightenment was one of conversation; critical, respectful, open-ended dialogue between free subjects
Enlightened conversation flourished through the clubs and societies throughout the Prussian lands during the first half of the eighteenth-century; there was, according to Clark [in his assessment of van Dulmen, The Society of the Enlightenment. The Rise of the Middle Class and Enlightenment Culture in Germany, (Oxford, 1992, trans. by Anthony Williams); pp. 47-48] a sort of code of conduct in the clubs and societies; one would not interrupt, but wait one's turn; satirical or vulgarly comedic remarks were not to be tolerated; digressions and interruptions were prohibited
This was not quite the art of polite public discourse, since it was confined to private societies and clubs, but conversation allowed the free and unmitigated development of enlightened ideas
Conversation which "powered the Prussian Enlightenment" also occurred through print; one of the distinctive features of the periodical literature was its discursive, dialogical character Much of the Berlinische Monatsschrift was indeed letters from members of the public to the editor; cf. online records Its function was to provide the public with the means of reflecting upon itself and its foremost preoccupations Associations and book clubs spread across the German states through the 1780s; some were small, informal gatherings which met in the house of one of the wealthier members; others were reading circles specialising in the dissemination of specific journals or books Increased from about 50 in 1780 to over 200 in the next ten years In total, German reading societies had a membership of between fifteen and twenty thousand Bookshops of great importance; Kanter's bookshop founded in 1764 in Königsberg served as the city's "intellectual stock-exchange" - it is likely that among his customers was Emmanuel Kant These members of the enlightened society were not passive, apolitical figures, nor were they advocating rebellion and opposition to the state; one of the distinguishing features of the Prussian Enlightenment was how closely linked to the state it was; links with Cameralism were only gradually broken Unlike in France, where free-lance writers or independent men contributed most heavily to their Enlightenment, in Prussia those contributors were drawn from the civil service Study of the Berlinische Monatsschrift from 1783-1796 showed that of all its contributors over those years, 15% were noblemen; 27% professors and school teachers; 20% senior officials; 17% clergy; 3.3% army officers - more than half were in state employ and on the state's pay roll - cf. Möller, Vernunft und Kritik. Deutsche Aufklärung im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt/Main, 1986), pp. 295-6 Example given: Berliner Mittwochsgesellschaft; met regularly, with members including Carl August von Struensee, the finance councillor, Johann Heinrich Wloemer (1726-1797), the poet Leopold Friedrich Günther von Goeckingk, Christian Konrad Wilhelm von Dohm, the theatre director and writer Johann Jacob Engel, the Supreme Court councillor Friedrich Wilhelm von Beneke, Friedrich Gedike, Karl Franz von Irwing, the jurist Ernst Ferdinand Klein, Franz Michael Leuchsenring, the physician Johann Carl Wilhelm Moehsen, and Christian Gottlieb Selle, the preachers Johann Joachim Spalding and Johann Friedrich Zöllner. Moses Mendelssohn was an honorary member Most meetings were concerned with contemporary political issues, though some deviated to scientific topics of interest It was easy enough for progressive scholars to view the state as intrinsically linked with the Prussian Enlightenment if only for the reason that the monarch, Friedrich II/der Grosse, seemed to embody the enlightened times Kant suggested that 'the age of enlightenment' and 'the age of Frederick' were synonymous; Was ist Aufklärung?, p.95 Many of Friedrich's measures demonstrated his 'enlightened' philosophy; while a sceptic on religious questions, his stance was one of tolerance He once stated that 'all religions are just as good as each other, as long as the people who practise them are honest, and even if the Turks and heathens came and wanted to populate this country, then we would build mosques and temples for them'; he gathered leading thinkers from the contemporary French enlightenment around him, including Voltaire; he removed the censorship of Die Berlinischen Nachrichten; ordered that Wolff, who had been driven from the University of Halle by Pietists in the 1720s, be recalled to the establishment; forbade torture as a component of the judicial process Torture was not to be used, as of 3 June 1740, except in cases of crime against king or country, or instances of multiple murder, where harder interrogation was needed to discover unknown accomplices Friedrich was, therefore, unlike his French counterpart Louis XVI, a "plausible partner in the project of enlightenment" Kant argued that the enlightened sovereign transformed the relationship between political and civil liberties, and that under an enlightened monarch such as Frederick, his power was an asset, not a threat, to the interests of civil society It in some ways legitimised the rule of state, when public argument and criticism - a conversation between society and state - ensured that values and objectives of the state would merge objectively with those of the people Virtually all major legislative initiatives throughout the Prussian lands were the result of conversation and consultation between state and local interests In 1784, as Frederick embarked upon a reform of the law code for Prussia, he submitted early drafts to the judgement of public opinion; this was tacit acknowledgement that public opinion was "a mighty tribunal" judging each act of government There was not freedom of the press, but censorship mild enough to allow political debate to thrive John Moore, a Scottish traveller, wrote of his visit to Berlin in 1775 that "nothing surprised me more…than the freedom with which many people speak of the measures of government, and the conduct of the King…" - cf. Moore, A View of Society and Manners in France, Switzerland and Germany Talks of the Jewish Enlightenment in Prussia or Haskalah (from the Hebrew le-haskil, "enlighten, clarify with the aid of intellect") first took off in Berlin, with Moses Mendelssohn being one of its foremost proponents Confronted with the Jews, Frederick's enlightened mind narrowed to a purely instrumental rationale, determined to use them as revenue-generators to fund the Seven Years' War In 1784, Mendelssohn waded into the Was ist Aufklärung? debate in the Berlinische Monatsschrift, arguing that enlightenment denoted not a state of affairs, but a process of maturation whereby one learned to apply reason to the problems with which one was confronted; this view was particularly novel
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