DO WE NEED A NEW ENLIGHTENMENT FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY?
Section 1. On the Idea of Tolerance and Religious Beliefs
The original essays in this issue are arranged as a thematic development of the central themes of the Enlightenment, as they emerge both progressively and in retrograde reflection through a multilogue among the luminaries of the Enlightenment. Those central themes appear to be the freedom of thought, the prioritization of reason over faith, science and the idea of linear or uniform progress. In the case of the Enlightenment, there is a dynamic dialogue between thinkers on the question of the freedom of thought and its severe curtailment by the power of religion, or, in its most notorious form, by the Church. The thinkers discussed in this first issue are, for the most part, in a battle with the Church for the freedom to express their own thinking without being constricted by the authority of the Church.
Our valued contributors circle the globe and include professors from universities in Russia, USA, Bulgaria, Romania, Nigeria, Israel, France, Poland, Canada and Singapore. This international collection presents this issue with perspectives that represent a global variety of the thematic and dialectical evolution of viewpoints on the core themes that occupied intellectuals and philosophers during the Enlightenment. Though completely without any intention on the part of the individual authors, the collection proves to be a fascinating organic dialogue among the various views presented, starting with the theme of tolerance, a major theme of the Enlightenment and finishing with a critique of the Enlightenment precisely for not practicing the virtue of tolerance that it preached.
We could begin with either the continental philosopher, Spinoza or the British philosopher, John Locke since both are born in the same year, 1632. The choice of Locke as a starting point is based on the fact that Spinoza expands upon Locke’s view of tolerance and hence Locke’s view of tolerance should precede that of Spinoza’s. John Locke’s concept of tolerance, it may be said, is both a germinating idea and a core fruit of the Enlightenment. Hence, there is a good case that we may begin our dialogue about the Enlightenment, with the ideas of John Locke. Professor Emilia A. Tajsin thus receives the honor of being the first essay in the issue. According to Professor Tajsin, the key issue is that even if we understand the idea of tolerance, understanding is not enough. This point illustrates the difficulty of engaging in philosophical dialogue of any kind since we normally consider that arriving at understanding is the key to finding truth and/or resolving conflicts of opinion. It is fitting, then, that we begin with epistemology, or, in Professor Tajsin’s preferred term, gnoseology.
In Professor Emilia A. Tajsin’s article, “Understanding Is Not Enough,” she makes the point, that, as well known as John Locke is, as the arch empiricist, she quotes Locke as writing, “Sense and intuition reach but a very little way”— and, amplified in her quotation of Locke: “Our highest degree of knowledge is intuitive, without reasoning. I call intuitive knowledge which […] needs no probation, nor can have any; this being the highest of all human certainty;” and—with the aforementioned “Each step in demonstrated knowledge must have intuitive evidence.”
According to Professor Tajsin, Locke considers that the “natural freedom” of a person resides in the fact that s/he is free from any power above him/her—but God’s, and should not obey neither the caprice nor the legislative power of another person, especially if this power violates basic human rights. There is no natural hierarchy: each person is born unquestionably free and equal.
Even if we could reach an agreement through understanding of such points, for Professor Tajsin, what she means by the title phrase, understanding is not enough, is that in the contemporary culture in which we live, understanding is by itself not persuasice. Contemporary globalization means integration of the media into these processes, shaping the new world-wide generation which she refers to as “netizens.”
Professor Tajsin writes that the Middle Ages opened paths to the Renaissance, and our time signals a return to medieval philosophical thought, framed into nominalism and realism together with many other cultural features of that time. Now, it is time to open paths to a New Renaissance, restoring two crucial qualities: human dignity and creativeness. The next centuries can be foreseen as a New Enlightenment, restoring respect for reason and science, and trust in social progress. The New Enlightenment, she states, will again treat science and technology as the optimal means for solving human problems.
Professor Tajsin’s article throws down the gauntlet for the essays to follow. For her, there is to be a New Enlightenment, one for which Locke has set the stage. The question remains, on what gnoseological basis, can such a New Enlightenment be envisioned? What if humans possess different and possibly conflicting intuitions concerning what is the nature of a New Enlightenment? Such are the problems to be addressed in the sequence of articles to follow.
In her article, “John Locke-Theorist of Limiting and Supervising Political Power by Citizens,” Professor Adriana Neacșu, points out that Locke possesses a favourable view of man in a natural condition. The reason for this, she avers, is Locke’s deep religious commitment, by virtue of which he could not admit that man, God’s creation, would be fundamentally evil and he considers that man obeys the divine law, planted in his heart by Creator. According to Professor Neacșu, the divine law, for Locke, is the same as the universal law of reason, which he identifies with natural law. Professor Neacșu states that it is by virtue of this sovereign natural law, all people are free and equal, each having the right and the obligation to defend both his own interest and the interests of all. The natural law thus forbids abuse and discrimination, and promotes peace and understanding between individuals.
Professor Neacșu’s article elaborates the classical political ideas of democracy that Locke introduces of countervailing powers, checks and balances and the division of powers. She notes that it was Montesquieu who introduced the idea of the separation of the judiciary. The key point of her article is to examine a lesser known feature of Locke’ thinking. It is that the separation of powers are checked yet again by the will of the people, by whom and for whom these checks and balances and the division of powers are constructed. Professor Neacșu discusses this neglected idea of Locke’s politics and also considers its weaknesses as evidenced by recent mob violence in the assault on the American Capitol on January 6, 2021. For Professor Neacșu, the violent overthrow of the governance is, in fact, the logical consequence, pushed to the extreme, of Locke’s theoretical position on limiting and supervising political power by citizens.
In Professor Neacșu’s interpretation, Locke’s political theory justifies not only the beheading of Charles I Stuart and the abolition of the absolutist monarchy in England, but also a number of other revolutions: bourgeois, workers, socialist, anti-socialist, communist, anti-communist, democratic, anti-totalitarian, popular, which followed one another relatively quickly in Europe and in the world over the nearly four centuries that have passed since the English Revolution. In her words, all these revolutions, without exception, can have John Locke as their undisputed ally, because they arose, in the name of oppressed crowds, against various forms of inequity encountered within some modern and contemporary states. And most of them were not peaceful, but, on the contrary, used violence to a greater or lesser extent, Locke justifies this as perfectly rational and legitimate. The question remains, does Locke’s thinking open the doors to a tyranny of citizenry as is characterized by the January 6, 2021 invasion of the US Capitol?
In his article, “Separating Politics from Institutional Religion: The Significance of John Locke’s Theory of Toleration,” Professor Diego Lucci comments that John Locke advocated the separation of church and state but his methods and ideas were still theological. Professor Lucci’s article examines the idea that Locke’s idea of a free thinking person can, nonetheless, still embrace the ideas of the Church. Professor Lucci refers to the increasing separation of scientific research, philosophical thought, and political theory and practice from theology, biblical exegesis, and ecclesiastical traditions and authorities. For Professor Lucci, Locke, while formulating a theistic and rationalist deontological ethics, a political theology stressing the divine origin of natural law, and a divinely inspired and hence infallible Scripture-based albeit heterodox version of Protestant Christianity, argued, at the same time, for the separation between the state and religious societies in A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and other writings on this subject.
Nonetheless, Professor Lucci states that Locke’s tolerance was not universal. Professor Lucci points out that Locke considered that belief in predestination denied any role to good works in the pursuit of salvation, since antinomians and other predestinarians, justified the elect solely by God’s eternal decree. Hence, Locke denied the possibility of salvation to antinomians and deists. Professor Lucci makes the subtle point that while Locke does not deprive non-Christians of civil rights, his idea of tolerance is not that of religious tolerance. Though he did not extend the possibility of salvation to Jews, Muslims, and “pagans” because of their refusal of Christianity, he expressly defended the civil rights of those professing non-Christian religions. Locke’s opposition to Catholics, Professor Lucci writes, is his opposition to their allegiance to a foreign power in all matters, namely the Pope. Therefore, Professor Lucci states that Locke’s theory of religious toleration did not apply to Roman Catholics.
Locke’s view of tolerance, Professor Lucci notes, also did not apply to atheists. Locke’s intolerance of atheists, Professor Lucci states, is due to the idea that atheism is irrational. He quotes Locke as writing, “Atheism [is] a Crime, which for its Madness as well as Guilt, ought to shut a Man out of all Sober and Civil Society.”
Professor Lucci posits that for Locke, non-Christian believers such as “pagans,” Jews, Muslims, and deists understand that they have duties towards their Creator and that there is a divine moral law to comply with. Therefore, nonChristian believers are able to meet at least minimally decent moral standards and, thus, are tolerable in a civil commonwealth. Unlike atheists, they are not intrinsically immoral. Only, Professor Lucci writes, with Pierre Bayle and, then, the philosophes of the High Enlightenment was atheism considered tolerable.
In his article, “Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem (1783) and the Jewish Vision of Tolerance,” Professor Shmuel Feiner relates the story of Mendelssohn, the Jewish thinker who championed the idea of freedom as not being incompatible with his religion of Judaism. Mendelsson joins John Locke in his averral that his religion, in this case, Judaism, is not in conflict with rationality. There is a difference, however, in that Mendelssohn’s idea of tolerance is not as exclusive as that of Locke’s and includes other religions. There is also the point that, according to Professor Feiner, in Mendelssohn, the ideas of faith and reason are not as juxtaposed as opposites as they seem for Professor Feiner, to be in Locke.
Mendelssohn, known in his time as the German Socrates, commenting on Christian Wilhelm von Dohm, wrote, “This wise man of the world he believed that a decisive turning point had been reached in the blood-soaked relations between Jews and Christians: ‘This wise man of the world of the eighteenth century rose above the differences among doctrines and opinions and looked only at man as a human being’.” Mendelsohn wrote these words in his introduction, to his translation of Menasseh Ben Israel’s, The Vindication of the Jews, addressed to Oliver Cromwell. This introduction was a sharp critique of religious excommunication. Mendelsohn wrote, “Reason and the spirit of investigation of our century are still very far from removing all traces of barbarism in history.” It was, according to Feiner, the critique of this introduction by August Friedrich Cranz, that propelled Mendelssohn to write his great book, Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, Mendelssohn argued against the power of religious excommunication and against the idea of Judaism as a system of commandments, prohibitions, rewards and punishments. In Feiner’s words, “Mendelssohn’s harsh criticism of various forms of oppression and prejudices, superstitions and cruelty, turned Jerusalem from a defense brief for the Jewish religion into a masterpiece of the culture of the European Enlightenment, making its author the first Jewish humanist.”
Even Immanuel Kant wrote to Mendelssohn, whose essay won in a competition in which Kant’s essay placed second, praising his book, expressing enthusiasm for its main achievement: “You were able to make your religion suit such a degree of freedom of conscience, of which no one could imagine it was capable.”
According to Professor Feiner, Mendelssohn thought he had achieved a true synthesis of the conflict between religious authority and the freedom of thought. In Mendelssohn’s vision of Judaism, he presented this as a model, but not as a proof of the truth of Judaism versus other belief systems. Professor Feiner aptly writes of Mendelssohn: “For God, he asserted vehemently, does not desire unity of thought but rather pluralism and a multitude of varieties.”
In his article, “Spinoza’s Virtue: Springboard for Modern Valorization of Ethical Relativism,” Professor Columbus Nnamdi Ogbujah describes Spinoza as often being regarded as the greatest metaphysician among the successors of Descartes. For Professor Ogbujah, Spinoza set out to return the intellect to its birthright of truth by distinguishing, within his established method, three levels of knowledge and perception, namely: imagination (perception of individual things); reason (ideas from common notions); and intuition, which is the high est knowledge. His effort at healing the intellect was directed to the highest knowledge, whose object is the highest reality. Intuition then, as the highest knowledge, is the knowledge of God who is the highest reality. Thus, Spinoza’s method of healing the intellect begins from the true idea of God.
Professor Ogbujah also describes Spinoza’s thought as an ethical egoism, a position he demonstrates with textual evidence from Spinoza’s great, posthumous work, the Ethics. Professor Ogbujah argues that the modern valorization of ethical relativism, which in certain respects, detracts from the core values of the Enlightenment, has its seminal roots in Spinoza’s works. According to Professor Ogbujah, since Spinoza regards the pursuit of one’s own advantage as “the first and only foundation of virtue,” he exhibits a preference for ethical relativism, by insisting that obedience to this principle is the only pursuit that is good for its own sake. Additionally, according to Professor Ogbujah, Spinoza apparently encourages the adulation of subjectivism, even though he somewhat envisions altruistic behaviour as its end product. It is on these bases, Professor Ogbujah cites John Grey as noting, that one can interpret Spinozist ethics as licensing all manner of violations of traditional ethics in the name of self-preservation and the advancement of self-interests.
Ethical relativism, Professor Ogbujah comments harbors some form of incoherencies and uncritical intellectual permissiveness that directly detract from the core values of the Enlightenment. Nonetheless, Professor Ogbujah quotes Gilson as regarding Spinoza’s philosophy as “a one hundred percent metaphysically pure answer to the same question, how to achieve human salvation by means of philosophy only.” In this context of salvation, Spinoza understood philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom and the right way of living; that is, the discovery of the true good. His belief in the impossibility of human happiness outside the knowledge of the true good, is key to his ascription of practical and moral orientations to philosophy. For him, philosophy is a tool for solving the problems of life.
For Professor Ogbujah, Spinoza’s effort at healing the intellect was directed to the highest knowledge, whose object is the highest reality. Intuition then, as the highest knowledge, is the knowledge of God who is the highest reality. Thus, Spinoza’s method of healing the intellect begins from the true idea of God.
In her article, “Philosophy and Theological Rationalism: Spinoza and Hobbes,” Professor Gabriella Tănăsescu argues that Spinoza’s justification of his ideas of political freedom are in contrast with his religion and also that Spinoza’s idea of political freedom contrasts with the influential political theories of Thomas Hobbes. Professor Tănăsescu quotes from Leo Strauss that Spinoza’s position is “the secret of the vitality of Western civilization.” The separation of philosophy from religion is, according to Professor Tănăsescu, Spinoza’s contribution. The radical liberal character of Spinoza’s support for freedom of thought, conscience, expression, through the “liberation of the philosophy from theology,” and, as the author of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus himself confessed, the intact preservation of natural right and prevention of excessive political power is the most significant specific difference between Spinoza and Hobbes.
Professor Tănăsescu argues that Spinoza represents a revival of the classic ideal of the sage”—namely to offer “the individual a way to the salvation and even the eternity of his soul.” His philosophy sought thus “not only knowledge, but beatitudo, an ethical objective, relating to the supreme state of the soul.” Professor Tănăsescu refers to Yovel as holding that this ideal of salvation “stems from Spinozaʼs religious and mystical concerns in their translation into the language of reason,” into a “true metaphysical knowledge” (“possessed only by the happy few”) that augment ratio with scientia intuitiva, the rational wisdom with an esoteric internal, intimate side of intuitive and synoptic knowledge.
Professor Tănăsescu refers to Wolfson as reflecting that this mixture of rational knowledge and intellectual intuition, or mystical knowledge, reflects Spinoza’s attempt to refine modern Western ideas, of rationalist origin and Jewish medieval philosophy, especially the heterodox one.12 For Professor Tănăsescu, Spinoza found “an alternate way of salvation,” “a way of spiritual ascension” by relating tightly two kinds of rationality, a lower, analytic, scientific kind and a higher, synoptic, intuitive kind, the last one requiring intellectual “love and unity with God.” Thus, the pursuit of rationality is beyond knowledge, in beati tude, eternity, and rational or intellectual love of God, amor Dei intellectualis, in the culminating ethical objective: love of fellow human beings.
In the first part of his article, “From Toleration to laïcité: Bayle, Voltaire and the Declaration of Human Rights,” Professor Gerhardt Stenger provides a detailed argument to demonstrate that there is a concept in French thinking, of the word “laïcité” (untranslable in English) that means not only the freedom from religious censorship, which would be a negative freedom, but a positive freedom of thought which is not constricted by any authority whatsoever.
Professor Stenger points out that Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration does not include tolerance of atheists. He then moves to the French Protestant Pierre Bayle. In Bayle’s, Philosophical Commentary, the freedom of conscience is valid only for those who recognize the primacy of the natural light of reason over faith. But this is precisely what the Churches cannot admit. In his Answers to the Questions of a Provincial, Professor Stenger quotes from Bayle: “… the persecutor, once dogma has turned religious zeal in him, can sincerely believe that he is doing his dirty work in the name of his conscience. It is sincerity which results in crime beyond measure.”
Professor Stenger quotes from Bayle that “… such a man will trample all the rules of morality under foot …” Bayle becomes convinced that no rational and moral argument for tolerance will ever be able to overcome intolerance. Professor Stenger remarks that Bayle has engaged in “one of the most radical attacks that has ever been launched against all religions and that half a century before Voltaire, Bayle has observed that intolerance is the historical product of the Christian religion.”
Professor Stenger also advances the idea that universalism can lead to the belief in the need to impose the same beliefs on all. However, at the end of his essay, Professor Stenger refers to a reference plane that transcends all belief systems. What seems to be the ultimate value for Bayle is one’s own conscience. Professor Stenger attributes the view to Bayle that there is no greater evil than denying one’s conscience. For the ultimate criterion of truth for man is not the authority of a Church; it is his conscience. Anything man does against what the voice of conscience commands him to do is sin.
In the second part of his article, Professor Stenger remarks that Article 10 of the Declaration of Human Rights was the first legacy of the French Enlightenment: religious beliefs are only opinions. Professor Stenger recounts that by 1789, the power of the churches has been restrained. In 1825, the offense of blasphemy with a death penalty was introduced. In 1905, freedom of conscience was guaranteed and Church and State were separated. By 1946 and 1958, secularism became a constitutional value. For Bayle, unlike Locke, religion does not necessarily lead to virtue and atheists can behave as well as Christians. For Professor Stenger, the First Amendment to the US Constitution possesses the effect of ensuring religious communities an influence unimaginable in France and that the United States is the most religious nation in the Western world. For the French, observes Stenger, laïcité respects religions, but includes the unbeliever as well as the believer. Religious faith is placed at the same level as musical taste. In Professor Stenger’s words, “The French République laïque is free from any religious influence, while elsewhere the Churches are more or less free from any State influence.” Professor Stenger makes the notable point that “advocating tolerance, as fundamentalists do, means to tolerate what cannot be tolerated: all attacks on freedom and equality.” For Professor Stenger, Laïcité “à la française” rejects identity claims and enhances a reference plane that transcends them.
In his article, “The Idea of Miracle in the Enlightenment and Enlightenment in the Idea of Miracle: The Dialectics of Theological Narrative and Philosophical Discourse,” Professor Evgeniy Bubnov assumes a position that enables freedom of thought to flourish in spite of religious intolerance. Professor Evgeniy Bubnov presents the idea that even the set laws of nature constitute miracles and that the belief in scientific laws constitutes an acceptance of the miraculous. He presents an argument that seeming exceptions to the laws of nature are not miracles, but are the products of false narratives. With the acceptance of the idea that scientific laws are also miracles, the claims of science receive greater credibility.
Professor Bubnov refers to statements by Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Henri Poincaré. He quotes from Einstein: “Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world […] That is the ‘miracle’ which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.” Professor Bubnov quotes from Poincaré: “men demand of their gods to prove their existence by miracles; but the eternal marvel is that there are not miracles without cease.” Professor Bubnov quotes from Max Planck: “how peculiar it must seem that we, tiny creatures on a tiny planet, are nevertheless capable of knowing though not the essence and least the existence and the dimensions of the basic building blocks of the entire great Cosmos! But this is still not the end of the wonder of it. Physical research has established as an incontestable fact that these basic building blocks of the Universe do not exist unrelated in isolated groups, but that all of them are mutually interlinked according to one uniform plan.”
For Professor Bubnov, the stereotypical ideas of the Enlightenment as the period of fighting religious doctrines by means of appealing to reason as the only criterion of the truth, cannot be used to describe the processes in question. Professor Bubnov quotes Kant’s famous definition of enlightenment. In Kant’s, An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? Immanuel Kant wrote: “Enlightenment is mankind’s exit from its self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Self-incurred is this inability if its cause lies not in the lack of understanding but rather in the lack of the resolution and the courage to use it without the guidance of another.”
According to Professor Bubnov, the debate between religion and reason is misguided because what is considered to be the province of religion, namely, miracles, has been wrongly defined. Hume a priori eliminates this option. First, “Nothing is counted as a miracle if it ever happens in the common course of nature.”
Professor Bubnov quotes from Voltaire that by this very statement, a miracle is a contradiction in terms. He quotes from Ralph W. Emerson in his essay Nature who writes: “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” He cites David Hume as writing: “The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible […] that the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise.” Thus he [Hume] pari passu destroys the case against a miracle based on the argument from experience.
If the Enlightenment is based on a myth, Professor Bubnov writes, (even if it is Christian mythology or dogma), then the enlighteners are not independent thinkers which means, according to Kant, that they have not reached maturity. Thus, Professor Bubnov questions whether the Enlightenment actually has met its objective.
Section 2. Thinking for Oneself, Reason and Mysticism
Immanuel Kant articulates the objective of the Enlightenment in his famous phrase, “sapere audi,” to dare to think for oneself. The seeds of Kant’s culminating summation of the thought of the Enlightenment are to be found in the writings of the iconoclastic philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The battle between Reason and Faith continues with the confrontation between Kant and Jacobi.
Professor Halina Walentovicz writes in her article, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the Context of the Enlightenment and the Contemporary Era,” that because of Rousseau’s transgression of the Enlightenment paradigm, Rousseau is sometimes considered to have been the first modern philosopher. She writes that it was Rousseau who awakened Immanuel Kant from his “dogmatic nap” regarding practical philosophy—just as Hume had done earlier in relation to theoretical philosophy. It is no wonder that Kant had a portrait of Rousseau gracing the wall behind his desk. For Professor Walentovicz, it is correct to assess Roussseau as the first modern philosopher because his thought, in numerous ways, anticipated the Frankfurt School long ahead of its time as well as their dialectical view of history by contesting the Enlightenment’s widespread belief that it was a linear, continuous, cumulative and, by nature, unchangeably progressive process.
Professor Walentowicz argues that unlike popular opinion, it was Rousseau’s thought and not his personal life that was responsible for the intellectual upheaval his creative thinking life contributed to the Enlightenment. For Professor Walentowicz, it is in the thought of Rousseau that the break between the Church and the freedom of the individual is most clearly severed. Its difference from the politically structured world of John Locke is well noted.
For Professor Walentowicz, Rousseau held that human beings were free by nature and saw freedom as an inalienable human property. Slavery, thus, for Rousseau lacks any justification. She also quotes from Rousseau’s Émile that there is no original sin in humankind, thus dividing this aspect of Rousseau from Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason alone, from which she quotes the famous passage that there is a natural propensity in man to evil: “… nevertheless [man] started from evil, and this debt he can by no possibility wipe out […] the radical evil of human nature […] constitutes the foul taint in our race.”
Professor Walentowicz points out that for Rousseau, though “each man profits from the misfortunes of others,” this is due to the evolution of civilization which put individual and group interests against each other, and is not a product of human nature.According to Professor Walentowicz, Rousseau considered that self-love and compassion were inborn in man. Self-love was not equivalent to selfishness. Compassion occurred prior to reflection which was why, according to Rousseau, it was weak in civilized man, stifled as it was by reason. Professor Walentowicz quotes from Rousseau that, “Natural feelings speak for the common good, reason for our own interests.”
Professor Walentowicz writes, contrary to Socrates, for Rousseau the savage was not evil because he did not know the meaning of being good; knowledge about good only appeared with the arising of the concept of morality. The savage was “beyond good and evil.” For Rousseau, according to Professor Walentowicz, the savage did not compete with anyone, hence felt neither hostility nor hatred, knew no cruelty or revenge lust. On the contrary, he was benign and free of the passions that awoke aggression. Consequently, very contrary to Hobbes, Rousseau maintained that the state of nature contributed to peace.
On the other hand, Professor Walentowicz argues that Rousseau did not counsel a “return to nature” but rather a culture that cultivated nature. For his political theory, Rousseau was one of the architects of democracy with the qualification that he endorsed direct democracy that intended the realization of the general will, different from the will of all. In his famed Social Contract, Rousseau praises civilization. Professor Walentowicz points out that concurrently with the Social Contract, Rousseau published Émile, which pertained to education and not to politics. Although these two works seem to be in conflict, Professor Walentowicz argues they are complementary. She concludes by citing parallels with the Frankfurt School including Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno.
Prior to Sigmund Freud, she reveals that Rousseau had emphasized how the role of mastery over nature had proved to be destructive to humanity. Professor Walentowicz refers to Rousseau as a “priceless asset in our eyes” for his farsightedness, complexity and multidimensionality of his defiant thought. He stood, as she avers, far in advance of his times.
In her article, “Understanding the Virtues of Enlightenment Epistemology,” Professor Ana Bazac explores the philosophy of Kant and creates a synthesis between the epistemology of Kant’s first Critique and the practical freedom implied by Kant’s explicit essay on “What is Enlightenment?” In a word, this article envisions Kant’s epistemology as a summation of Enlightenment thought, depicting a vision of the human being in thought as committed to free thinking. As epistemology dictates, if Kant’s epistemology is correct, and his self-styled Copernican revolution sound, then every person potentially can be a philosopher in the sense that every person is responsible for her or his own enlightenment. Enlightenment equals freedom of thought and each individual possesses an ethical obligation to ensure that she or he truly thinks for herself or himself. This individual effort is the duty and the legacy of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, Professor Bazac states, progresses from being only a battle with the confining authority of Religion. It requires each individual to take responsibility to be a thinking being, that is, a questioning human being in all departments of human life, and not only in her or his world of religion.
Professor Bazac states that Kant’s call to sapere aude was expressly directed both to the intellectual elite and to the common people. The anti-elitist stance and the consideration of the explicit educative and popularising role of philoso phy, permitted by the emergence of the middle class in the newly born capitalist system, were the other features of Enlightenment thinking, yet rather unnoticed by its critics.
According to Professor Bazac, for Kant, the moral law was and should be logically demonstrated. This moral law is a concept of reason, and, thus, it must be demonstrated: because otherwise, neither reason nor its requirements are taken seriously. Reason as the judge of reason was the huge burden placed by Kant on the shoulders of humanity in its movement. Criticism became more than the critique of empirical facts and abstract theories: it became the transcendental method uniting the conditions of every type of criticism and advancing the logic of self-criticism and moral construction.
Professor Bazac notes the features developed by our contemporary dominant ideology represent the diminishment of the importance of criticism, logic, analysis, comparison, and the consideration of short-term and long-term consequences of our actions. She comments that the Enlightenment warned against clichés, and prejudices. She warns about today’s dependence on the devices produced by science, but not on its dependence on science as such. She argues that the systematic lowering of respect for mass scientific and rationalist knowledge is both the cause and the effect of the absolute dependence on devices and at the same time on entertainment, on, in her phrase, a permanent “vacation of thinking.” The Enlightenment, she writes, insisted on the search for truth, while the present’s most famous ideological product of “study” is the mastery of rhetoric or, with a modern word, of “communication.” The questioning of the dominant ideas is considered by the dominant ideologies as a spiteful and unacceptable way of thinking: in the best case, outdated, in the worst case dangerous and blameworthy; both in common and scientific thinking.
In his article, “Productive Misunderstanding: Independent Thinking as the Horizon of the Enlightenment (On the Example of Polemics Between I. Kant and F. Jacobi),” Professor German Melikhov questions Kant’s free thinking and wonders if it leaves religious thinking in its wake and, in so doing, deprives religious thought of its freedom. This turnaround is accomplished by analyzing Kant’s treatment of the religious thinker, Friedrich Jacobi. Professor Melikhov argues that Kant has not sufficiently understood the argument of Jacobi and has undermined the freedom that belongs to another way of thinking, a way of thinking that relies upon and prizes spiritual knowledge that is not gained from reliance upon discursive reason alone.
Professor Melikhov writes that, adhering to such different views, Kant and Jacobi were doomed to misunderstanding each other; they could never agree. In the Kantian understanding of rationality, closely related to reflective thinking, there could not be a place for Jacobi’s position as being connected with a special kind of receptivity, “feeling.”
Professor Melikhov remarks that if we take for the truth the words of Jürgen Habermas that the intellectual is the one who is the first to feel the important, Jacobi will turn out to be one of the European thinkers who performed the function of an intellectual in relation to his own philosophical tradition, who discerned the problematic in it.
According to Professor Melikhov, for Jacobi, philosophical objectivity was first revealed to him as the content of his “inner feeling,” was perceived deeply personally, and only then was it formalized in the content of thinking. He points out that the “Jacobi case” is interesting in that the mystic philosopher acted in the function of an intellectual, responding not to a specific request of society, but to the internal problems of academic philosophy. It was this type of philosophizing, Professor Melikhov writes that was different from the dominant philosophy of the Enlightenment and was also critical of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, which considered itself autonomous, and that caused such a violent reaction. Jacobi’s philosophy was severely criticized not only by Kant, but also by Fichte, Schelling and Hegel.
For Professor Melikhov, Kant had his own preferences. He resolutely placed everything that relates to feelings and faith outside of reason. For Professor Melikhov, Jacobi’s main problem with Kant’s philosophy is its idealism, which for Jacobi, leads eventually to nihilism. The essence of nihilism is the denial of reality. This leads to the fact that morality and religion lose their meaning for a person.
Professor Melikhov discusses the relationship between the Kantian understanding of the Enlightenment and the ideas of adulthood. Maturity is the determination and courage to think for yourself. Professor Melikhov explains that it is not enough to be intelligent: it is important to decide to think for yourself, to take responsibility for what you do. It is important to understand that maturity as an opportunity to think for oneself is not a state acquired once and forever. It is acquired anew each time. The result, the state of maturity, requires a constantly renewed process of thinking. Professor Melikhov stresses that the distinction between “learning philosophy” and “learning to philosophize” is one of the “strongest, repeated many times beliefs of Kant.” According to Professor Melikhov, philosophy and the art of philosophizing, Kant repeats cannot be learned.
Perhaps the riddle of the “transfer” of misunderstanding into a “more productive mode,” the riddle of shifting attention from what (“givenness”) to how (“conditions”) is contained in the practice of keeping oneself open to the gift of thought. For Jacobi, “I was looking not for the truth that would be my creation, but for the one that would create me.”
It should not be forgotten, Professor Melikhov advises us, that Kant believed that philosophy, that is, independent thinking and maturity, cannot be taught to another person. You can learn philosophy only yourself, that is, you can start philosophizing again and again. Most likely, this endeavor to think, the principle of independent thinking, is the living spirit of the Enlightenment. It was, according to Professor Melikhov, taken in two different ways by Kant and Jacobi.
Section 3. The Fruits of the European Enlightenment and the Beginning of Its Critique
Beginning with a disquisition on the influence of the European Enlightenment the authors in this section reopen the question of the critique of the Enlightenment that was augured by Rousseau. That the history of humanity is an unbroken arrow of progress is brought under question. Praise of the achievements of the Enlightenment is tempered by the harsh prejudices and injustices that the philosophers of the Enlightenment ignored or in some cases even justified. That the barbaric and inhumane conditions for some provided the conditions for the fulfillment of the desire for material progress is a sobering critique of the Enlightenment. The issue ends by entertaining the question, what is civilization?
In her article, “Education Project: Utopia or New Reality? (Russian intellectuals of the 18th Century,” Professor Elena Tashlinskaya describes the effects of Enlightenment thought on Russian intellectuals. This essay, summarizing the lesser known achievements of the great Russian intellectuals from this period, reminds us that whatever we think of the ideas of the Enlightenment, we could argue that the freedom of thought that it embraced ushered in creative achievements of a significant order, including accomplishments in science, literature and poetry. Whatever position we may take on the Enlightenment and its great battle with the authority of the Church, there is no denying the achievements that it betokened and that its legacy justly heralded.
For Professor Tashlinskaya, Russian thinkers of the Enlightenment shared the values of the European Enlightenment philosophy with its boundless faith in reason and progress, its faith in the power of education and science, designed to change the life of the human race for the better, and operated with European political theories of natural law and social contract. Many representatives of the Enlightenment in Russia were distinguished by the breadth of knowledge characteristic of that time in various fields—in history, geography, physics, biology, and philosophy. At the same time, according to Professor Tashlinskaya, the political and philosophical ideas of the Russian Enlightenment were much more conservative than in Europe, and the reception of the natural-legal doctrines of Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Locke and other Western philosophers did not prevent Russian thinkers of the 18th century to advocate the strengthening of the estate character of Russian society and the preservation of serfdom, and to be supporters of extreme absolutism and despotic methods of government, practiced by Peter I.
Professor Tashlinskaya narrates that representatives of the culture of the Enlightenment in Russia were included in the royal court. Many enlighteners— Vasily Tatishchev, Antioch Kantemir, Mikhail Shcherbatov—held important government posts at various times, and Feofan Prokopovich was the closest associate of Peter I. All of them were ardent supporters of Peter the Great’s reforms implemented in the form of a “revolution from above,” hence supported paternalism, the cult of the state and strong power in their political views. Therefore, Professor Tashlinskaya reminds us that the bearer of the philosophy of the Enlightenment in Russia was exclusively the nobility, as the most cultured and educated part of the imperial society. The combination of Enlightenment and absolute monarchy, striving for science and despotism is a characteristic feature of the Russian situation.
Professor Tashlinskaya relates the contributions of many Russian intellectuals, highlighting in particular, the contributions of Lomonosov including his discovery of the atmosphere of Venus through observations of the movements of Venus across the disk of the Sun. She concludes that, for Russia, the dream of an enlightened and moral monarch remains a dream. For Professor Tashlinskaya, science is ahead of the development of politics and the government is still trying to maintain its privileged position.
In his article, “Appraisal of Steven Pinker’s Position on Enlightenment,” Professor Ashok Kumar Malhotra at first expounds Pinker’s laudation of the Enlightenment in his work, Enlightenment Now, the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress and then proceeds to offer a critique of it. In addition to providing praise for Pinker for the detail of his argument outlining how the Enlightenment advanced the cause of Reason, Science and Progress, Professor Malhotra quotes how Pinker described its advance on Humanism: “A humanistic sensibility impelled the Enlightenment thinkers to condemn not just religious violence but also secular cruelties of their age, including slavery, despotism—and burning at the stake. Enlightenment is sometimes called the Humanitarian Revolution, because it led to the abolition of barbaric practices— commonplace across civilizations for millennia.”
In the transition to his critique of Pinker, Professor Malhotra relates the anecdote that when asked about his triumphant publishing venture, Mark Twain gave a wonderful answer: “A successful book is not what it contains but what it leaves out.” This insight, Professor Malhotra relates, is most appropriate in evaluating Pinker’s position on Enlightenment, expressed in his work, Enlightenment Now, the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.
Professor Malhotra narrates that as early as 1748, the French philosopher Montesquieu set the tone in his treatise The Spirit of the Laws, holding the Asians in haughty contempt and blaming much of their detestable qualities on the Mongols whom he labeled “the most singular (odd) people on earth.” Professor Malhotra relates that Montesquieu described them as both servile slaves and cruel masters.” While praising the tribal origins of Europeans who heralded democracy, Professor Malhotra states that Montesquieu damned the tribal people of Asia by saying: “The Tartars (Mongols) who destroyed the Grecian Empire established in the conquered countries slavery and despotic power …”
Professor Malhotra quotes from another iconic Enlightener when he states that this hatred of the Mongol warriors issued in Voltaire’s rhetoric the condemnation of “wild sons of rapine, who live in tents, in chariots, and in the fields … detest our arts, our customs, and our laws; and therefore mean to change them all; to make this splendid seat of empire one vast desert, like their own.”
According to Professor Malhotra, the outcome of this racial bias has had alarming consequences. Professor Malhotra relates how White Europeans, by using force, captured African men, women and children and sold them as slaves to the recently discovered North and South Americas. A number of ships carrying these slaves arrived in the USA when the Enlightenment had just begun in Europe. Since this slave trade was extremely profitable as a business, thousands of black Africans were captured and then shipped to America to cultivate the fields making the USA the biggest producer of cotton and tobacco in the world.
Professor Malhotra also relates the story of Thomas Jefferson. He informs us that while Jefferson fought against the British Monarchy to end this slavery for White Americans, at the same time, he owned 200 black African men, women and children as his slaves. They worked in his plantations as well as did all the household chores to make his and his family’s lives comfortable. According to Professor Malhotra, the historical record shows that Jefferson was the 2nd largest slave owner in his county. According to Professor Malhotra, when Jefferson was asked about this contradiction in his ideas and actions, he justified it by saying that the Black Africans were slow in their evolutionary development. Their brains and physical features were less developed in contrast to the White race and, therefore, they must belong to an inferior race.
Professor Malhotra asks questions relevant to our contemporary times: “When reason takes the form of rebellion to accomplish one’s selfish political goals, how does it loosen its moorings from Enlightenment? How does one convince those 70 million US voters who thought they were using their reason by concluding that the 2020 US election was rigged? Did they persuade themselves that they had a justified reason to attack the US Capitol to assert their rights to be heard? Were they motivated by their white privilege? Did they feel threatened by the other 75 million voters, making up the diverse colors of the USA? How do the ideals of Enlightenment apply here? Is reason flawed when utilized without any sensitivity to morality?”
In his article, “A Historicist Critique of Steven Pinker’s Interpretation of Progress,” Professor Omer Moussaly presents the position of the dialectical thinking of the Frankfurt school in its deconstruction of the Enlightenment period. He presents their arguments that the idealization of free thought omitted its evolvement through the diminishment of reason and was punctuated by periods of political revolt that enabled, in Professor Moussaly’s words, its great premises to arise. According to Professor Moussaly, we could not have had the evolvement of the great ideas of the Enlightenment had there not have been the violence of the revolutions that precipitated the arising of these ideas. Enlightenment requires periods of negation and degeneration. In Professor Moussaly’s phrases: A phoenix arises from ashes. We could not have the phoenix of the Enlightenment without the destruction that preceded it.
Professor Moussaly pays tribute to what Pinker recognizes, but then proceeds to take issue with what he does not. He quotes Pinker’s statement from his Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress: “This evidence-based take on the Enlightenment project reveals that it was not a naïve hope. The Enlightenment has worked—perhaps the greatest story seldom told.” In contrast, Professor Moussaly points out that Rosa Luxemburg writes that the enslavement of millions of people hailing from the African continent was a key element in the development of capitalism itself. It created the prosperity which allowed the progress that Pinker applauds to happen: The brutal imperialism required to engage in such a nefarious trade is not some secondary historical fact.
Professor Moussaly counsels that a careful examination of the actual history of the Enlightenment project can also give us a better understanding of its contradictions and bourgeois limitations. He quotes the historian C. Harman for the explanation that: “The Enlightenment thinkers were not revolutionaries. They were dissident intellectuals who looked to members of the upper class for sponsorship.” Professor Moussaly also relates that Harman mentions how, for ex ample, Voltaire believed that labourers and the poor should not be seriously educated. Professor Moussaly raises the implications of the preference that this privilege should be reserved for the sons of the wealthy and the well-bred. With the continuously growing costs of university education today and with the accumulation of massive student debt seen by many working-class people as the only way to pursue higher learning, Professor Moussaly states that we should re-examine how the Enlightenment project is unfolding.
Even Hegel is cited as an unexpected champion of the poor: “The poor still have the needs common to civil society, and yet since society has withdrawn from them the natural means of acquisition […] their poverty leaves them more or less deprived of all the advantages of society, the opportunity of acquiring skill or education of any kind, as well as the administration of justice, healthcare, and often even the consolations of religion.”
Professor Moussaly quotes from Harman to explain that the desire for a rational society was not sufficient to bring it about: “Voltaire, apparently, was dispirited when he died in 1778. Kant noted six years later that, although ‘he was living in the Age of Enlightenment … the age itself was not enlightened.’ Professor Moussaly points out that, in contrast, Enlightenment figures thought that Asia was more developed than Europe. He quotes from the historian A. G. Frank who remarks that “[Adam] Smith […] was the last major (Western) social theorist to appreciate that Europe was a Johnny-come-lately in the development of the wealth of nations: ‘China is a much richer country than any part of Europe,’ Smith remarked in 1776.”35 According to Frank, Asia produced some 80 percent of world output at the end of our period [1400–1800] in the eighteenth century.”
According to Professor Moussaly, Frank cites the example of the two Italian cities of Venice and Genoa that acted as middlemen in the global exchanges of the time. Professor Moussaly quotes from Frank: “The world economy was predominantly Asian-based and so were the economic enterprise and success of Venice and Genoa, both of which derived their wealth from their intermediary position between the riches of Asia and the demand for the same in Europe.” With the gold and silver that it took by force from the Americas, Europe built up a stronger position in the arena of international commerce. Moussaly pro vides the information that Pinker has omitted: the achievements of the Enlightenment were erected upon an unenlightened base.
Professor Moussaly’s essay sets the stage for the concluding essay of the issue, the comprehensive questioning of the very idea of civilization itself posed by the sagacious essay contributed by Professor O’Sullivan. In his essay, Professor O’Sullivan questions the very idea of civilization, posing like a latter day Rousseau, questioning whether civilization has brought us progress, and at what cost. This sobering essay forms a fitting ending to our first issue.
In Professor Luke O’Sullivan’s, article, “On the Very Idea of Civiisation,” it is the idea of civilization that has become problematic for us. Professor O’Sullivan refers to the apocryphal Gandhian crack that “Western civilisation would be a good idea” presupposes, after all, that we know what we mean by it.38
For Professor O’Sullivan, we could just as easily talk about a “clash of cultures” and omit any reference to “civilisations.” Cultures, understood as national identities, may certainly clash, especially where religion is involved. In Professor O’Sullivan’s words, “One man’s sacred cow is literally another man’s dinner.”
Professor O’Sullivan remarks that there is nothing contradictory in the idea of an uncivilised culture. He cites Hitler’s rule in Germany as an example of a temporary abandonment of civilization. Professor O’Sullivan states that insisting on the truth of Christianity, or of the secularized version of it that Chakrabarty calls Enlightenment humanism, confused what was local with what was universal. The West claimed to offer universal civilisation; but mostly offered culture instead.
Professor O’Sullivan points to Paul Virilio who argued that any modern invention is a double-edged sword, because any new technology necessarily also creates new ways in which things can go wrong. The invention of the train is also the invention of the train wreck. The computer and the computer crash are the products of one invention. Professor O’Sullivan points to a difference between the acquirement of technical skills and being civilized. He states that we are not likely to call anyone civilised just because they know how to drive or how to use a mobile phone. He argues that these activities may take some training, intelligence, and skill; but they are no index of civilisation. Nor, indeed, according to Professor O’Sullivan, is a capacity to solve complicated equations. Even if we disambiguate science and technology, as we should, neither can be taken as standing for civilisation.
In Professor O’Sullivan’s narrative, people first began living in cities partly for safety’s sake, but civilisation is not simply what Robert Nozick called a “protective association.” Civilisation, he argues, cannot be reduced to the preservation of “bare life.”Instead, Professor O’Sullivan states that “we should define civilisation positively as the existence of formal and recognised limits to the treatment of others.”
Professor O’Sullivan considers that that this newly minted definition is consistent with the belief of critics like Feyerabend and Chakrabarty that one of the great failings of the West has been its inability to recognize civilisation when it met with it elsewhere simply because the other civilisations it encountered did not share in its own version of it.
Professor O’Sullivan expands his definition of civilization with requirements that include showing gratitude, being accommodating, not being the first to start a fight, and curbing pride and arrogance, among another conditions. Professor O’Sullivan concludes that perhaps the banal, but nonetheless inescapable truth is that the most important thing in life, indeed the only thing that really matters in life, in the final analysis, is how one treats others. It is this, and nothing else, that is the hallmark of the civilised person and the civilised country that might prove salutary as a guide to policy.
The Enlightenment, as one can glean from these richly diverse articles from our scholarly global community, produced themes that are a subject of intense, vibrant, thoroughgoing and fruitful debate. It was a time of probing inquiry into the project of what it truly means to obtain freedom of thought and the grounds for human knowledge that remains an enduring model for such exploration, both in the present and for the future of humankind. According to arborists, the crown of a tree is a mirror image of its root system. It is hoped that through the reexamination of the very idea of the Enlightenment and the ideas of its great thinkers, these primal issues that form the roots of our rationality shall continue to nourish the great tree of democracy. It is to the spirit of the continuance of the engagement of the human mind with the quintessential values that make human life meaningful that this issue is dedicated.
Robert Elliott Allinson
Professor of Philosophy
Soka University of America
Guest Editor, Dialogue and Universalism, 31 (2), 2021
UNDERSTANDING THE VIRTUES OF ENLIGHTENMENT EPISTEMOLOGY
The paper tries to demonstrate the hypothesis that the Enlightenment epistemology is the unity of the constructivist theory of knowledge—that developed the transcendental conditions of knowing—and the ethical maximalism of the categorical imperative. Actually, the ethical maximalism was conceived of and is conceivable only in tandem with and as a result of the epistemological constructivism that alone enables the responsibility without which the ethical stakes remain an exterior normative speculation. The unity supported the development of the concept of critique as autonomous use of reason, of education of the critical spirit, and of public presence of critiques. Surveying Kant’s What is Enlightenment and Contest of Faculties, the concepts and the logic related to the critical spirit are described, as well as their interpretations mainly by Foucault. The radical character of Enlightenment is given not by its liberal political theories but just by the above mentioned unity. With Enlightenment, criticism became more than the critique of empirical facts and abstract theories: it became a transcendental method uniting the conditions of every type of criticism and advancing the logic of self-criticism and moral construction.
Keywords: Kant, What is Enlightenment, Contest of Faculties, epistemological constructivism, critique, maximalist ethics.
Affiliation: Politehnica University of Bucharest, Splaiul Independentei, 313, sector 6, Bucharest, Romania.
THE IDEA OF MIRACLE IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND ENLIGHTENMENT IN THE IDEA OF MIRACLE: THE DIALECTICS OF THEOLOGICAL NARRATIVE AND PHILOSOPHICAL DISCOURSE
The article is devoted to the problem of comprehension of the idea of miracle by the encyclopaedists and other enlighteners. The definitions of the concepts we use to designate the miraculous, the amazing and the magic change with the time. This fact may seem trivial at first glance. However, if we draw our sight to the material world we will see that the evolutionary changes taking place with some engineering devices do not affect the functions these devices were invented for. Entirely different is the situation with the semantics of some words denoting abstract concepts. The core function of the word is to convey a certain sense to the addressee. But, as may be seen from the speculations of the miraculous, it is the sense of the word which is gradually changing. The changes mentioned are due to the collisions between different world views at the turn of the epochs. However, the stereotype ideas of the Enlightenment as the period of fighting religious doctrines by means of applying to the reason as the only criterion of the truth, cannot be used to describe the processes in question. Our analysis will also point out at the problem of the periodization of the Age of Enlightenment.
Keywords: Enlightenment, David Hume, Voltaire, theism, miracle, laws of nature.
Affiliation: Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Far Eastern Federal University, Sukhanova, Primorskiy Kray, 690091 Vladivostok, Russia.
MENDELSSOHN’S JERUSALEM (1783) AND THE JEWISH VISION OF TOLERANCE
Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) wrote Jerusalem with his back to the wall. His Jewish identity and liberal outlook were challenged in the public sphere of the German Enlightenment, and this was his last opportunity to write a book that would perpetuate the essence of his faith and his values as the first modern Jewish humanist. The work, which moves between apologetics for his faith and political and religious philosophy was primarily a daring essay that categorically denied the rule of religion and advocated tolerance and freedom of thought. Neither the state nor the church had the right to govern a person’s conscience; and, no less far-reaching and pioneering: these values are consistent with Judaism. In the summer of 1783, seven years after the resounding voice of protest against tyranny and in favor of liberty and equality was heard in the American Declaration of Independence, less than six years before the French Revolution, but only two years and two months before his death, the man who was called the “German Socrates,” a highly prominent figure in the Enlightenment, published one of the fundamental documents in Jewish modernity.
Jerusalem did not propose a compromise, a middle-ground solution to the tension between religion and the state and to the world suspended between the old and the new, where the Jews were caught in the modern age. His positions were decisive, and, in the context of his time, even radical. Regarding war and religious fanaticism, the power of the church, excommunication, and religious coercion. Mendelssohn was uncompromising and showed himself as a daring Jewish revolutionary. In his view, the collision between religion and the state was catastrophic for all of humanity. His vehement critique of all forms of oppression makes Jerusalem—beyond being a defense of the Jewish religion—a model of Enlightened European culture. This was a great call for reform of the world by abolishing the coercive power of religion and, at the same time, for “true Judaism,” enabling modern Jews to preserve their cultural and religious identity as the vanguard of tolerance and enlightenment. In the twenty-first century, when the values of the Enlightenment are under attack, Mendelssohn remains more than ever a relevant philosopher.
Keywords: Haskalah; Tolerance; Religious coercion; Judaism; Enlightenment.
Affiliation: Modern Jewish History at Bar Ilan University, Israel.
SEPARATING POLITICS FROM INSTITUTIONAL RELIGION: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JOHN LOCKE’S THEORY OF TOLERATION
Nowadays, more than three centuries after John Locke’s affirmation of the separation between state and church, confessional systems of government are still widespread and, even in secular liberal democracies, politics and religion often intermingle. As a result, some ecclesiastical institutions play a significant role in political affairs, while minority groups and individuals having alternative worldviews, values, and lifestyles are frequently discriminated against. Locke’s theory of religious toleration undeniably has some shortcomings, such as the exclusion of Roman Catholics and atheists from toleration and an emphasis on organized religion in A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). However, Locke’s theory of toleration, which presents a Christian’s defense of the civil rights of those who have different religious opinions, still provides powerful arguments for the oft-neglected separation of politics from institutional religion, thereby urging us to leave theological dogmas and ecclesiastical authorities out of political life.
Keywords: atheism, Christianity, civil commonwealth, civil interests, Enlightenment, John Locke, morality, natural law, salvation, toleration.
Affiliation: American University in Bulgaria, 1 G. Izmirliev Sq., 2700 Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.
Ashok Kumar Malhotra
APPRAISAL OF STEVEN PINKER’S POSITION ON ENLIGHTENMENT
Steven Pinker presents four ideals of Enlightenment in his popular book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. He argues his case brilliantly and convincingly through cogent arguments in a language comprehensible to the reader of the present century. Moreover, whether it is reason or science or humanism or progress, he defends his position powerfully. He justifies his views by citing 75 graphs on the upswing improvement made by humanity in terms of prosperity, longevity, education, equality of men and women, health, political freedom and medical breakthroughs. Though Pinker makes an excellent case for the positive contributions of Enlightenment; however he ignores the negative aspects that are responsible for causing a great schism between the white race and others who are black and brown. The paper highlights some of these negative comments made by such Enlightenment thinkers as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Chambers, Down and Down and others. Through their literary and scientific writings, these scholars and researchers downgraded the black and brown races, thus causing a rift that led to slavery, colonialism and apartheid. The paper reveals these negative aspects ignored by Pinker in his otherwise well-researched book on Enlightenment. Since Pinker presents a one-sided case by including only the positive contributions of Enlightenment, I recommend that he should write a sequel to his present work outlining the negative aspects responsible for numerous political, social and environmental problems facing humanity today. By using dialectical logic in place of logic of contraries, he might be able to synthesize both the positive and negative aspects of Enlightenment. He can then argue that humanity might be propelled to make progress more efficiently at a faster pace toward humanism and world peace.
Keywords: Enlightenment, reason, science, humanism, progress, world peace, universal human nature, systematic racism, colonialism, slavery, logic of contraries, dialectical logic, negative enlightenment.
Affiliation: Emeritus SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at Oneonta.
PRODUCTIVE MISUNDERSTANDING: INDEPENDENT THINKING AS THE HORIZON OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT (ON THE EXAMPLE OF POLEMICS BETWEEN IMMANUEL KANT AND FRIEDRICH HEINRICH JACOBI)
The article focuses on understanding some of the self-evident premises of the philosophy of the 17th–19th centuries that make up the horizon of the Enlightenment. One of these premises is Immanuel Kant’s idea of independent thinking. Based on the analysis of the polemics of Kant and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi about the “extrasensible abilities” of the reason, the question is raised about the possibility of understanding someone else’s concept based on other existential preferences. Answering this question, we distinguish between the concept of the Enlightenment and the practical principle of the Enlightenment and show that the supporter of the ideology of the Enlightenment (Kant) and his critic (Jacobi) appear in the light of the principle of independent thinking as the spokesmen of the spirit, not the letter of the Enlightenment. A condition for understanding someone else’s concept is a productive misunderstanding, which is one of the aspects of the principle of independent thinking: the acceptance of the self-evident as incomprehensible, the shift of one’s attention to one’s own how-being and the perception of thought as a gift.
Keywords: Enlightenment, productive misunderstanding, Kant, Jacobi, independent thinking, gift, work on oneself.
Affiliation: Kazan Federal University, Institute of Social and Philosophical Sciences and Mass Communications, Tatarstan, Russia.
A HISTORICIST CRITIQUE OF STEVEN PINKER’S INTERPRETATION OF PROGRESS
This article presents an alternative account of the Enlightenment project than the one offered by Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now. It also offers some insights into how historic changes concretely occurred. Based on a Marxian reading of history we attempt to complete the portrait of human progress that Pinker provides. The main arguments in support of our alternative explanation of social progress are based on insights taken from important works written by such intellectuals as Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank, Antonio Gramsci, Chris Harman, Eric Hobsbawm, C. L. R. James, Karl Korsch, Domenico Losurdo, Georg Lukács, Rosa Luxemburg and Herbert Marcuse. We believe that our explanation of progress is complementary to Pinker’s and provides a more realistic appreciation of the Enlightenment project.
Keywords: Steven Pinker, Enlightenment, historicism, progress, Antonio Gramsci, Marxism.
Affiliation: Université du Québec à Montréal.
JOHN LOCKE—THEORIST OF LIMITING AND SUPERVISING POLITICAL POWER BY CITIZENS
This paper aims to analyze John Locke’s ideas on the limited political mandate of the institutions of power, and the need for their supervision and sanctioning by citizens when they violate their duties. It emphasizes the topicality of these ideas, pointing out that they represent two fundamental principles in the functioning of the rule of law, defining the current democracies. Locke justified them starting from the hypothesis that society was founded by people through a deliberate pact, so that the common good could be promoted more effectively, and the legitimacy of political power is conditioned by the observance of this task. Therefore, if political power violates the social pact, it can be overthrown by citizens even by force. The author then raises the question if the use of force to change a political regime can still be justified today. Her answer is that this is an objective mechanism, which appears implacably in all unjust societies, and the only way to defuse it is for states to permanently respect the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
Keywords: John Locke, democracy, limiting political power, supervising political power, sovereignty of citizens.
Affiliation: University of Craiova, Romania.
ON THE VERY IDEA OF CIVILISATION
The concept of civilisation is a controversial one because it is unavoidably normative in its implications. Its historical associations with the effort of Western imperialism to impose substantive conditions of life have made it difficult for contemporary liberalism to find a definition of “civilization” that can be reconciled with progressive discourse that seeks to avoid exclusions of various kinds. But because we lack a way of identifying what is peculiar to the relationship of civilisation that avoids the problem of domination, it has tended to be conflated with other ideas. Taking Samuel Huntington’s idea of a “Clash of Civilisations” as a starting point, this article argues that we suffer from a widespread confusion of civilisation with “culture,” and that we also confuse it with other ideas including modernity and technological development. Drawing on Thomas Hobbes, the essay proposes an alternative definition of civilisation as the existence of limits on how we may treat others.
Keywords: Civilisation, culture, modernity, Thomas Hobbes, Johann Gottfried Herder, Samuel P. Huntington, Niall Ferguson, John Stuart Mill, colonialism, imperialism, barbarism.
Affiliation: Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore.
Columbus N. Ogbujah
BENEDICT DE SPINOZA’S VIRTUE: SPRINGBOARD FOR MODERN VALORIZATION OF ETHICAL RELATIVISM
Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) was about the most radical of the early modern philosophers who developed a unique metaphysics that inspired an intriguing moral philosophy, fusing insights from ancient Stoicism, Cartesian metaphysics, Hobbes and medieval Jewish rationalism. While helping to ground the Enlightenment, Spinoza’s thoughts, against the intellectual mood of the time, divorced transcendence from divinity, equating God with nature. His extremely naturalistic views of reality constructed an ethical structure that links the control of human passion to virtue and happiness. By denying objective significance to things aside from human desires and beliefs, he is considered an anti-realist; and by endorsing a vision of reality according to which everyone ought to seek their own advantage, he is branded ethical egoist. This essay identified the varying influences of Spinoza’s moral anti-realism and ethical egoism on post-modernist thinkers who decried the “naïve faith” in objective and absolute truth, but rather propagated perspective relativity of reality. It recognized that modern valorization of ethical relativism, which in certain respects, detracts from the core values of the Enlightenment, has its seminal roots in his works.
Keywords: Enlightenment, virtue, anti-realism, ethical relativism, objective truth.
Affiliation: Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
FROM TOLERATION TO LAÏCITÉ: BAYLE, VOLTAIRE AND THE DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN
This paper traces the history of the philosophical and political justification of religious tolerance from the late 17th century to modern times. In the Anglo-Saxon world, John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) gave birth to the doctrine of the separation of Church and State and to what is now called secularization. In France, Pierre Bayle refuted, in his Philosophical Commentary (1685), the justification of intolerance taken from Saint Augustine. Following him, Voltaire campaigned for tolerance following the Calas affair (1763), and the Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) imposed religious freedom which, a century later, resulted in the uniquely French notion of laïcité, which denies religion any supremacy, and any right to organize life in its name. Equality before the law takes precedence over freedom: the fact of being a believer does not give rise to the right to special statutes or to exceptions to the law.
Keywords: toleration, laïcité, secularism, Enlightenment, Pierre Bayle, John Locke, Voltaire, Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Affiliation: University of Nantes.
Emilia A. Tajsin
UNDERSTANDING IS NOT ENOUGH
John Locke was one of the first empiricists of the age of modernity who created a masterpiece on systematic gnoseology, and the first Enlightener whose ideas on ethics, law, and politics, preceded and made possible the 18th century and the Great French Revolution, and inspired the key wordings in the American Declaration of Independence. The slogan “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” influenced the course of history becoming the banner “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity” for all revolutionary movements. However, “Possessions” as part of Locke’s slogan is treated and criticized very frequently and on different grounds. The main questions are: Is reason enough for enlightening, and, could property be the fourth slogan of a social revolution? This paper is meant to be a synopsis of Locke’s main ideas, showing their utmost importance for the contemporary world, as well as examining the latest changes in the role performed by the present-day media, now acting as the new means for enlightening.
Keywords: John Locke, Enlightenment, philosophical empiricism, political liberalism, contemporary world.
Affiliation: Kazan State Power Engineering University, Krasnoselskaya, 51, Kazan, Russia.
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGICAL RATIONALISM: SPINOZA AND HOBBES
The paper aims to circumscribe, through a specific history of ideas approach, the relevance of Benedict Spinoza’s theological rationalism to the major debate which generated the Early Enlightenment, the radical conception on the new status of philosophy in relation to theology, on libertas philosophandi and rational philosophizing. The main lines of Spinoza’s theological rationalism are sustained as being inspired and encouraged by Hobbes’ “negative theology,” the only theology considered consonant with the “true philosophy.” The paper also indicates the originality of Spinoza’s theological criticism and the reasons under which Hobbes—despite the radicalism of his biblical interpretation and of his thesis of separating the philosophy (natural science) from theology—Hobbes enjoyed an attenuated critical reception compared to that one applied to Spinoza and the “acute” tone of which was set by Leibniz.
Keywords: theological criticism, negative theology, freedom of conscience, freedom to philosophize.
Affiliation: Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations of the Romanian Academy.
EDUCATION PROJECT: UTOPIA OR NEW REALITY? (INTELLECTUALS OF RUSSIA OF THE XVIII CENTURY)
The article reveals the main specific features of Russian philosophy of the Enlightenment. The activity of the outstanding scientist Mikhail V. Lomonosov, his contribution to the development of domestic and world science and philosophy come to the forth. Russian Enlightenment is distinguished by the originality of the intellectual tradition. Knowledge of Western ideas leads to the emergence of domestic science, philosophy, literature. The desire for freedom, autonomy and progress in science during the century of Enlightenment was combined with adherence to spiritual traditions, and openness to foreign-language culture did not abolish patriotism and reverence for the state.
Keywords: Russian philosophy, Enlightenment project, idea, freedom, humanism, autonomy.
Affiliation: Ulyanovsk State Technical University, 432027, Severnyi Venetz str., 32, Ulyanovsk, Russia.
JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE CONTEMPORARY ERA
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a special personage in the history of Enlightenment philosophy and European thought in general. This is so, because, on the one hand, he propounded ideas that were typical for the Enlightenment and greatly influenced his contemporaries—after all, it was he who inspired Kant with the idea of the autonomy of the will as a source of moral and juridical law, a conception which became the foundation of Kantian practical philosophy—but on the other criticised many popular ideas of his day, which from our contemporary perspective appear to have been the superstitions of the Enlightenment period. Rousseau rejected the uncritical apology of (universalistically understood) reason together with the “ethical universalism” professed by rationalists since Socrates. In his claim that human history ran in a circle (from nature in its primeval purity to nature as the expression of civilisational decay), he contested the Enlightenment’s widespread belief that it was a linear, continuous, cumulative and by nature unchangeably progressive process. Because of his transgression of the Enlightenment paradigm, Rousseau is sometimes considered to have been the first modern philosopher. And, in my opinion, rightly so, because his thought stood ahead of its time, and in many ways anticipated contemporary philosophy. I believe that especially the Frankfurt School owes a lot to his achievements. Rousseau’s thought already carried the main seeds of critical theory: the intertwinement of progress and regression over human history, emphasis on the mastering of nature and the destruction of the human element in the course of civilisational evolution, a social-historical (and not purely theoretical, as in Kant’s case) critique of reason for the sake of reason and not from the position of irrationality. Long before Max Horkheimer and his associates at the Institute of Social Research, and even ahead of Sigmund Freud, he saw reasons to ambivalently evaluate the results of human self-creation and to highlight the regressive tendencies present in human history.
Keywords: Enlightenment, rationality, nature, culture, history.
Affiliation: University of Warsaw, Institute of Philosophy, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, Warsaw.