Dialogue and Universalism





Part II




   The perspicacious thinker, Isaiah Berlin, once wrote that, “The intellectual power, honesty, lucidity, courage and disinterested love of the truth of the most gifted thinkers of the Eighteenth century remain to this day without parallel. Their age is one of the best and most hopeful episodes in the life of mankind.” If this is true, and much can be said on its behalf, this age, its values, and, as Isaiah Berlin emphasizes, the sincerity and love of truth of its thinkers, is a philosophical role model for the 21st century.

   In contrast, our present day intellectual peoplescape is pervaded by ideologues and propagandists, advocates of this group or that group, and most worrisome, the rise of demagogues propagating non-scientific theories and guiding the masses to an age of anti-intellectualism and prejudice fueled by fear and hate. Although the Enlightened Age featured barbaric atrocities epitomized by the Reign of Terror in France, arguably spurred on by readings, however spurious, of its intellectual heroes, the values heralded by the Age itself were ones that praised the accomplishments of Humankind and sang praises of the capacities of humankind to achieve the heights of reason and science. It was an age that, in its intent, wanted to throw off the shackles of medieval thinking and promote the flowering of human inquiry and the actualization of the human ability to realize the capacities of reason to its very fullest extent.

   How unlike this state of affairs are the values of our present age. The values of the Enlightenment, a belief in the authority of Reason and Science, an optimism regarding the possibility of the Progress of Human Civilization and the importance of the recognition of Universal Human Rights were the contributions of the philosophes of the European Enlightenment. In our contemporary times, there are significant storm clouds gathering that foreshadow the loss of sight of the need to adhere to these values. Our allegiance to democracy as a form of government, our extension of human rights to all the peoples of earth and our faith in science are all beginning to show increasingly worrisome signs of deterioration. Even more true now than then is the adage that Kant wrote, “We live in the Age of Enlightenment, but ours is not an Enlightened Age.”

   The net effect of this crumbling of the foundation for ethical values, of the lost Enlightenment, fasion de parler, is that the dominant attitude of value formation today is nihilism, either in the form of the retreat of philosophers to meta-ethics, to denounce work by philosophers on normative ethics, and to conclude in a faint image, however distorted, of Kant, to relegate normative ethics to the sermons of preachers, priests and rabbis. In the hands of the hoi polloi, this value deformation results in, at best, anti-intellectualism and at worst, an allegiance to forms of fundamentalism that heartily endorse prejudice and violence and their politicization. This is the sad, final note of nihilism that signifies the end of civilization as we know it, and the foreboding prospect that it will end, not as T. S. Eliot poeticized, with a whimper, but with a colossal bang.

   Whence the Enlightenment? The Enlightenment and its philosophes, though rightfully praised, were also criticized in our first issue on the Enlightenment (31 (2)) both for not extending their values to every human being and for not acknowledging that the values that they extolled were gained at the expense of the exploitation of other human beings whose slave labors provided the leisure class with the opportunity to propound those self-same values.

   In the current Dialogue and Universalism issue professors and authors from universities and locations as world-wide as Australia, France, China, the U.S.A., Hong Kong, Italy, Norway, Poland, Bulgaria, the U. K. and Finland focus on topics including Female Emancipation, the Non-European Enlightenment, Reason and Religion and the Metaphysics of Enlightenment to provide an informative and thought-provoking examination of the values of the Enlightenment and their relevance for the Twenty-first century.

Section 1. Female Emancipation

   We take our lead with three notable authors who are women philosophes, writing, in two instances, about women philosophers and one on a male philosophe of the Eighteenth century. (Six of the authors of thirteen articles in this issue are female authors or philosophers).

   Professor Debra Berghoffen’s, The Body of Rights: The Right to the Body, thoroughly examines the Enlightenment philosophe Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman as she writes, both of and out of sync with her times, Wollstonecraft used her century’s ideas of the body, the soul, the mind and God to argue that women were fully human and entitled to the same rights as men. Professor Bergoffen begins by stating that “the idea of human rights, that human beings possess certain rights simply by virtue of being human, is one of the lasting legacies of the Enlightenment.” She points out how “By substituting the terms ‘Human Rights’ for the Enlightenment phrase ‘Rights of Man,’ the UNDHR attempts to sever the idea of rights from its colonial, racist, and sexist baggage.”

   She cites Mary Wollstonecraft’s works as an inspiration to the idea that women’s rights are human rights and includes an important discussion of women’s bodies—counter to Enlightenment notions that still pervade today—as part of human rights and argues that human rights for females must be fought for in order to be recognized. Professor Bergoffen writes of Mary Wollstonecraft, “Out of sync with her times, Wollstonecraft used her century’s ideas of the body, the soul, the mind and God to argue that women were fully human and entitled to the rights of man.”

   Professor Berghoffen quotes from Mary Wollstonecraft, “As a woman of the Enlightenment, Mary Wollstonecraft [… argued …] that denying the rights of women was an act of tyranny … and that the progress of civilization would be stymied so long as the subjugation of women continued.” Professor Berghoffen makes the important observation that “Wollstonecraft […] was not mistaken in seeing that solving the class issue would not solve the matter of women’s oppression.” In this, in my editorial comment, Wollstonecraft and Berghoffen side with the mature view of Simone de Beauvoir.

   Professor Berghoffen argues against Rousseau that, “We are not born free. We are born both dependent and unfree with the right to develop the capacity to become independent and free.” With this insight, in my editorial comment, Mary Wollstonecraft anticipates Mao Zedong’s concept of the origin of human rights which, for Mao Zedong, was the human action of the working class and the peasants.3 In her article, Professor Berghoffen holds that the degradation of women’s bodies is a political issue. In a pointed section on rape, she states that, “… rape emerges clearly as a terrorist tactic used by some men, serving to perpetuate the power of all men over women.”

   She adds to Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminism which was coupled with a Cartesian concept of mind with the idea that, “… women’s demand that sexual violence be treated as a critical human rights issue was enabled by today’s embodied concept of personhood” as opposed to the Cartesian concept of the identification of person as a disembodied mind. Finally, Professor Berghoffen cites Mary Wollstonecraft as arguing that “… women should not/could not wait for men to grant them independence but must, like other revolutionaries, fight for it …”

   Professor Karen Green’s, Restoring Catherine Macaulay’s Enlightenment Republicanism?, examines Catharine Cockburn to argue that rational altruism rather than rational egoism represented by Macaulay’s optimistic utopianism in political theory, with Professor Green’s own commendable adaptations, is a much needed restoration of the ideas of representative democracy. Professor Green writes that “… Macaulay is a trenchant critic of Hobbes. Her views are utopian, looking forward to a society in which the common good will be the common care.” Professor Green argues that “Naturalist accounts of political authority tend to be realist and pessimistic, foreclosing the possibility of enlightenment. Macaulay’s utopian political philosophy relies on belief in a good God, whose existence underpins the possibility of moral and political progress.” The guiding question of her article, Professor Green notes is “… whether, or to what extent, a rearticulation of her [Catherine Macaulay’s] idea of a representative democracy, grounded in a social contract, can retrieve something of the moral underpinnings of her enlightenment republicanism, without falling back, as she did, on suspect theological assumptions.” This is, in my editorial comment, the core question of the Enlightenment to which many thinkers in this issue ponder: how can we rekindle and nourish the values of the Enlightenment in an age that veers away from theological foundations.

   In terms of ethical values, Professor Green refers to Macaulay in a critique of sexism not only from a feminist point of view, but also from the viewpoint of universal humanism. She extrapolates from Macaulay that “… If one does not recognize the existence of moral principles, which transcend simple calculation of long-term self-interest, then one cannot criticize the oppression of women by men …” In my editorial comment, in light of the au courant decline in the valuation of democratic political values, as Professor Green starkly notes, losing “faith in reason can only be replaced by the inevitability of war.” Such a warning from Catherine Macaulay signifies the importance of returning to intensive research into the values of the Enlightenment.

   The third essay in this trio of women philosophers is that of Professor Odile Richard. In her essay, Reading Diderot’s Novels and Correspondence: What Can This Philosopher Teach Us about the Education of Young People? written, if I may say so, in the Eighteenth century lovely salonière style, Professor Richard makes an extensive study of the works of the most famous encyclopaedist, Diderot, to discover his views on education, particularly sexual education, and particularly the sexual education of women. Professor Richard reveals the ideas of Diderot, as she weaves a tapestry through his various literary works including novels and letters through which we learn his notions of how to educate women, particularly his own daughter, the ideas on sexual education for whom he chooses to transmit to her through his mistress. The essay, which includes many revealing cameos of the life of Diderot including his description of Catherine II of Russia of whom he states, “has the soul of Caesar and the seductiveness of Cleopatra” (my translation), is candid in its depiction of the struggle of the inner soul of Diderot between a traditional and a more avant-garde view of sexual education.

   With regard to the avant-garde choice, Diderot’s concepts include an explicitly frank sexual education more so than is common today and for this, as well as the honest struggle between two sides of the question, make for a valuable contribution to sexual education for today and a plea for the equality of all females. His description of Catherine II is an excellent portrait of the equality of males and females and, if you like, is a poetic harbinger of the blending of genders we observe today.

   We learn from Professor Xing Guozhong’s and Shang Chen’s, Light Through Time and Space: The Influence of Confucian Humanism on the European Enlightenment, how the non-European civilization of China provided the philosophes with the ideas that formed the foundation of the European Enlightenment. The co-authors quote from key figures from the European Enlightenment in an eye-opening demonstration of the influence of Chinese Confucianism on the thinking of the philosophes of the Enlightenment. Professor Xing and Shang Chen point out Voltaire remarked that Confucianism was “free from superstition, from absurd legends, from dogmas, both insulting to reason and nature.” The authors quote Montesquieu who praised China for stressing the obligations each person had of the obligations he owed to his fellow citizens. The joint authors quote Leibniz as stating that, “Chinese Confucianism was a natural theology that did not oppose Christian faith but based it on reason and experience, thus escaping the fanaticism and obscurantism of religion.” Professor Xing and Shang Chen argue it was Chinese Confucianism that inspired the turn of the European Enlightenment toward reason and freedom.

   Freedom, for Confucianism, included the fundamental care for other person’s rights. In my editorial comment, it is important to pay attention to the concept of 仁 (ren) as it is the essential concept of Confucianism. The radical for human being on the left, combined with the radical for the number 2 on the right signifies the meaning of ren is that humanity is inherently benevolent, that is, defined by its relationship to the other. The pronunciation of the Chinese characters for man and for benevolence is identical although the composition of the radicals are different, thus making these two words homophones and nearly homonyms. The joint authors correctly translate ren into English as benevolence, a translation that concurs with that of the distinguished translator and my former, longtime colleague, D. C. Lau. The renowned scholars, Wingtsit Chan and D. C. Lau consider that ren is the central concept of Confucianism and for these authors ren is the cardinal feature that constituted the essence of what it means to be a human being. The choice of the English translation as benevolence is much closer to the actual meaning of the most central idea of Confucianism than the choices, for example, of “authoritative conduct” or “consummate conduct.” These latter translations are, in my editorial comment, confusing both in terms of their being awkward adjectival descriptions instead of a simple descriptive noun and systematically misleading connotations, implying authoritarian conduct in the one case—nothing could be more opposite in connotation from the meaning of ren—or an empty meaning in the case of the other; i.e., consummate in what sense, a consummate cook or a violinist? The genuine translation of ren must precisely connote that true humanity could not (and does not) exist without essential care for the other.5 Professor Xing and Shang Chen quote from Article 4 of the French Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Freedom means the right to everything that is not harmful to others.” These observations of Professor Xing and Shang Chen are significant in light of distinguishing the concept of freedom from license by including the crucial point that free action does not ever include action that brings harm to others.6

   The article of Professor David Chai, Shitao and the Enlightening Experience of Painting, on the Chinese painter Shitao of Eighteenth century China presents a revealing contrast of the concept of enlightenment as spiritual enlightenment versus intellectual enlightenment as characterizing the 18th century European Enlightenment. Professor Chai’s interpretation of Chinese Enlightenment as illustrated by Shitao is unique in the sense that enlightenment is understood as an experiential, ongoing process, as enlightening, associated with an artistic activity. In a word, it is brought about through and by the active creation of art practiced in a certain way; i.e. that embodies the concepts of traditional Chinese philosophy. By the same token, it is necessary that the attitude of spiritual enlightenment and the concepts of traditional Chinese philosophy, be present for such art work to be created in the first place. It is to be especially noted that this is the first essay on the work of Shitao written in the English language.

   Professor Chai quotes from classical Chinese philosophy to illustrate how Shitao’s painting techniques embody the key concepts of traditional Chinese philosophy of Laozi, Zhuangzi and the Yijing (the Book of Changes) and demonstrates his studied familiarity with the great classics of the Chinese philosophical tradition. This essay demonstrates in the view of the editor that we need to complement the ideas of the Western Enlightenment with the ideas of spiritual enlightenment more characteristic of Eastern philosophy.

   Such a complementarity of the views of Enlightenment, in my editorial comment, would do much to heal the tension between Eastern and Western civilizations that threatens to tear apart the unity of the world community today. In contra-distinction from other articles in this issue, Professor Chai does not focus on how the Chinese Enlightenment preceded and/or influenced the European Enlightenment, but rather how the Chinese Enlightenment is an altogether different, distinct and highly unique kind of enlightenment, one of which Western European thinkers should take more notice and engage in more deep thought and scholarly research. The implicit message is that artistic activity of a certain kind might play a significant role in enlightening, that is, in bringing enlightenment into being through imparting Chinese philosophy through the activity of art.

   Dag Herbjørnsrud’s two articles, The Quest for a Global Age of Reason. Part I: Asia, Africa, the Greeks and the Enlightenment Roots, and The Quest for a Global Age of Reason. Part II: Cultural Appropriation and Racism in the Name of Enlightenment, comprise the most extensive and comprehensive contributions in the journal and undertake the ambitious goal of providing copious illustrations of non-European global enlightenments, an undertaking that moves us away from the standard monolithic idea that there was a single, European Enlightenment. In particular, Dag Herbjørnsrud highlights both civilizations and individuals of color whose contributions, though heralded at the times, have been largely forgotten. By so doing, Dag Herbjørnsrud opens the door to a wider appreciation of intellectually neglected regions of the world and their denizens, of the history of civilizations and of individuals who have made truly remarkable and foundational contributions to the civilization of the globe.

   To highlight one particular contribution from each of Dag Herbjørnsrud’s two articles, it is apropos to first mention from Dag Herbjørnsrud’s first article, The Quest for a Global Age of Reason. Part I: Asia, Africa, the Greeks and the Enlightenment Roots, the quotation of the Muslim Mughal ruler Akbar the Great (1542–1605), “an inquiring skeptic who believed in ‘the pursuit of reason’ over ‘reliance on tradition,” telling his liberal Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian scholar Abul Fazl (1551–1602): “The pursuit of reason (‘aql) and rejection of traditionalism (taqlid) are so brilliantly patent as to be above the need of argument.”7

   It is appropriate to mention from Herbjørnsrud’s second article, The Quest for a Global Age of Reason. Part II: Cultural Appropriation and Racism in the Name of Enlightenment, the work of the Arab philosopher scientist Al-Haytham of whom Herbjørnsrud comments that “Arab scholars tend to make errors, AlHaytham underscored, which is why they disagree so often. Hence, the Arab scholar emphasized that one should be both critical towards the ancients and toward oneself. Therefore, it is one’s ‘duty’ to ‘attack’ all texts, including one’s own, from every side.” This is the epitome of Enlightenment thinking, to attack one’s own thinking to ensure its rigorous pursuit of truth.

   A further refinement is introduced by Professor Selusi Ambrogio whose article, Discording Enlightenment on China: Pierre Bayle’s Skepticism vs Johan Jacob Brucker’s Exoticism, contrasts the views of Johan Jacob Brucker and Pierre Bayle and asks us to choose which Enlightenment model to follow. After a detailed and scholarly critique of the Jesuit’s misunderstanding of Chinese thought, one of his key foci is on the opposing views of China presented by Bayle and Brucker. For the Enlightenment philosophe Bayle, “The Chinese were natural atheists; they did not undergo the history of superstition and intolerance of their European counterparts.” Professor Ambrogio contrasts this with the view of the Jesuits and the perennialists who were looking for the “divine wisdom” in other civilizations. Bayle, in contrast, “… searched for the original ‘secular’ conscience (i.e. rationality) of humankind, not perverted by religious intellectual or physical violence.” Bayle even claims that an “atheist King could be more tolerant and open to religious and moral diversities. The Chinese Emperor clearly belongs to the second kind of kingship.” Brucker’s narrative, Professor Ambrogio relates, “… is extremely effective in excluding extra-European views because of their presumed theological infancy and philosophical inaptness.” Brucker is an example of clearly demarcating the West as the only valid repository of philosophy. In the end, Professor Ambrogio considers Bayle’s skepticism as the model of the Enlightenment to adopt for our age as it conduces to tolerance.

   Professor Ambrogio’s contribution is significant in that he provides a persuasive, scholarly argument as to why Pierre Bayle’s view of China is the one we should follow instead of succumbing to the prejudicial view of China presented by Johan Jacob Brucker that was to possess such influence on later thought. Discovering the fundamental roots of prejudice is the first step we need to take toward its elimination. With the elimination of the roots of prejudice our minds are opened to become aware of the rich contributions of a civilization that can then be understood on its own terms.

   Professor Alexander Cook’s article, History as Ideology or History as “Idéologie:” C. F Volney and the Uses of the Past in Revolutionary France, focusses on the polymath Enlightenment luminary, Constantin-Francois Volney, to illustrate that there was already a critique of the Enlightenment from within the Eighteenth Century European Enlightenment itself. Of Rousseau, Professor Cook writes, “According to Volney, it should be no surprise that among the greatest practitioners of violence during the Revolution, the great number were, or described themselves as, admirers of Rousseau.”

   Volney criticized the historiography of his times. According to Volney, history was “… one of the most fecund sources of […] prejudice and […] errors.’ Cook quotes the telling statement of Volney’s: “If we calculated all the errors of men,” he claimed, “I would suggest that for every thousand, 980 relate to history.” For Volney, Professor Cook relates, history had to become more cosmopolitan. Volney, Professor Cook writes, points to the need to expand Enlightenment conceptual boundaries and quotes from Volney that we must “re-situate Europe within its Afro-Eurasian context—integrating Egypt, Babylon, Persia, India […] as well as China and Japan” and “this race of black men, today are slaves and the objects of our contempt is that to which we owe our arts, our science, and even the use of language.” Of Thebes, Cook relates that Volney writes, “It was there that a people since forgotten, while all others were barbarians, discovered the elements of the arts and sciences; and that a race now rejected from society, because they have frizzy hair and black skin, founded on the study of the laws of nature the civil and religious systems that still rule the Universe.” For too long, Professor Cook writes, “European scholars of the ancient world had focused exclusively on Romans, Greeks and Jews.” He points out overlooked facts of history such as the fact that “Athens had four slaves for every free man.” Professor Cook cites Volney as saying that “A more critical historiography would help to free humanity from its illusions about the past.”

   Contrapuntally, voices are heard that defend certain of the pilloried Enlightenment philosophers from the attacks upon them. Meng Zhang’s article Passionate Enlightenment Redeeming Modernity through David Hume is a defense of the Enlightenment against such criticisms as are leveled above. She herself refers to her paper as a “partial redemption of the Enlightenment via David Hume.” She confines her defense of the Enlightenment to Hume’s philosophy which, she argues in various subtle ways, is largely immune to the types of criticism to which the Enlightenment is liable. Her first defense is pitted against the charges that are related to the critique that the Enlightenment thinkers are overly reliant on Reason. Here, she points out that Hume relies upon “affective tendencies to derive a standard of moral values.” She quotes from Hume that “… the most important feature of humans as passionate animals is that we have the ‘propensity […] to sympathize with others” that is, to resonate with the passions of others (italics added). Sympathy is a mechanism that enables humans to share passions …” For Hume, she argues, all humans resemble each other in their humanity, so even with no other resemblance, humans are more or less influenced by the feelings of their fellow human beings. Her second defense is lodged against the charge that the Enlightenment project is historically and culturally conditioned. Hume, Zhang argues, presents a philosophical world view that is both flexible and, in my editorial comment, adaptable to accommodating diverse cultural perspectives. In Zhang’s wording, “… Hume’s moral framework has a built-in sensitivity to culture and tradition.”

Section 3. Reason and Religion

   In this next section, we are still preoccupied with the Enlightenment as the period of the Great Wall of separation between Reason and Religion.

   A third position is elaborated in which the debate between the secularization of religion and the concept of religious rationalism is, in my editorial comment, demonstrated to be a moot conflict, though leading to a variety of different implications. Professor Anna Tomaszewska’s article, Spinoza’s Critique and the Making of Modern Religion in the Enlightenment Era, raises the question whether the Enlightenment enhanced the cause of Religion or did it foster the primacy of the secular world, as it is frequently interpreted. Professor Tomaszewska analyzes the work of Spinoza to sort out the answer to this question and illustrates from Spinoza’s works that on the one hand, “he argues that Moses could not have drafted the Pentateuch, which contains descriptions of his death …” and yet on the other hand he states that Christ “communed with God mind to mind […] and was “the mouthpiece of God.” These quotations appear, in my editorial comment, to reflect the moot nature of the answer to the question that she raises. She points out that for Kant, as Spinoza, the core of religion is constituted by ethics. On the other hand, she points out that “a faith in which morality plays a less, or indeed no central role—such as Judaism—will not count as a true religion in Kant’s will.” It is clear, in my editorial comment, that one can find misunderstandings of Judaism and antisemitic comments in Kant’s writings as well as praise for certain ideas of Judaism.

   Professor Tomaszewska’s argument is that Spinoza’s influence on the Enlightenment is the impact of his ideas on rationalizing religion, but not dismissing it altogether. For Professor Tomaszewska, “Spinoza’s ideas would become a powerful tool of religious reform.” This idea of Professor Tomaszewska takes the best from both worlds, from rationality and religion, and provides us with a direction that enables us to maintain and cherish the insights that both reason and religion have to offer.

   Professor Brian Klug’s article, Do We Need a New Nathan the Wise?, raises the ante on the theme question of the journal, Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the Twenty-first Century? Professor Klug examines the role of Nathan in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s play, “Nathan the Wise” (1779) and engages in both a philosophical and a literary analysis of the play to address the questions: is Nathan wise, is Nathan Jewish, and, if I may, what is the point of the play. The characters of the play, Sultan Saladin (Islam), the Knight Templar (Christianity) and Nathan (Judaism) dialogue on the question of what is the difference between the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

   This dialogue may be taken, in my editorial comment, as a microcosm of the question of the Enlightenment; to wit, is there something universal common to all three religions, or is this universalism an abstract quality relating to none of the religions under question. If it is the former, then this raises the question of what is the relation between Nathan’s goodness and wisdom and his religion? The question to which this question gives rise is, what is the relation between any particular religion and the concept of universalism?

   To this question, if I may invert the order of Professor Klug’s article, he provides a rabbinical answer from a rabbinical story, with which he begins his article, one that is both all views are correct, and, that it is impossible for all views to be correct if they contradict each other. This last answer, which is Professor Klug’s first answer, if I may interpolate, is that Truth is something that is reflected in each individual viewpoint and in so doing, makes all eligible viewpoints equal. Somehow, this is the key to tolerance as it at once enables all those who hold competing belief systems to live in peace with each other. In the end, Professor Klug points out that in the play, there is an unfolding of the heritage of the various characters and a revelation that they are in truth related to each other except for Nathan. It is not clear what meaning this has except to indicate that the differences between us lie on the surface and that we are all truly part of one family of humankind, but that those who are Jewish fall outside of this family of humankind. This complicates the plot, or in Professor Klug’s judgement, loses the plot altogether. Perhaps, in my editorial comment, this signifies that the question of religion, reason and morality is subject to endless unravelling and thus is in substantial need of perennial knitting.

Section 4. The Metaphysics of the Enlightenment

   In Professor Alessandro Pinzani’s exposition of Kant in his article, Do We Need a Metaphysics of Morals? On the Actuality of Kant’s Project of Grounding A Priori Practical Principles. On the actuality of Kant’s project of grounding a priori practical principles, he stresses that Kant represents the embodiment of the Enlightenment in that he holds we need a system of moral duties that are grounded on rationality. We need a metaphysical grounding for our morality and we cannot rely on assigning to ourselves isolated moral precepts such as “be sincere” or “practice benevolent actions” which would constitute a “fragmentary collection of moral precepts.” Reliance upon isolated precepts would, for Kant, not constitute an adequate foundation for our morals. If our morality were to be grounded on reason, if it were due to the demands of reason, it would be established on a more secure foundation that would not admit so readily of possible deviance. Professor Pinzani expounds that for Kant as he claims in his Doctrine of Virtue, there are two ends that we set for ourselves, namely, our own moral perfection and the happiness of others. The combination of these two ends, in my editorial comment, supersedes the false dichotomy of deontological and utilitarian ethics. To utilize the vocabulary of negative and positive freedom, for Kant, negative freedom is “independence from being restrained by another’s choice” and positive freedom is to “… act externally that the free use of your choice can coexist with the freedom of everyone in accordance with a universal law.” Rationality, in short, “… regulates the coexistence of individual choices so that there are no privileges, nor unjustified discriminations, and so that individuals have full freedom in everything that does not violate the rights of others.” This, Professor Pinzani concludes demonstrates that Kant’s philosophy articulates the central value of the Enlightenment, which is respect. In my editorial interpolation, Professor Pinzani is arguing that by grounding ethics on a metaphysical foundation instead of relying on isolated precepts that lacked a foundation, Kant proposes that the foundation of reason provides the pathway that, if embraced, holds forth the promise of ameliorating the ethical ennui that characterizes present day society.

Professor Ollie Koistinen’s article, Spinoza’s Ode to Reason, implicitly calls for a return to Spinoza’s unique vision of philosophy, the quest for an intuitive vision of the Divine, to lift us to a higher plane of understanding that can point the way to escape from our present predicaments of relativism and nihilism. We may say, in an editorial comment, that Professor Koistinen’s exposition of Spinoza presents a certain dimension of the Enlightenment, that is a connection between reason and religion, in short, a rational religion.

Professor Koistinen writes, “Spinoza no doubt valued Reason highly. In fact, it is not exaggerated to say that his short philosophical life was dictated by the desire to make sense of the world.” Spinoza, was “fundamentally driven by a religious motive: by the desire to be united with the infinite entity he thought to be in touch with it.” Professor Koistinen lays out the path Spinoza takes to realize this ambition. He discusses Spinoza’s three kinds of cognition, first, sensory perception, imagination or opinion, second, common notions of reason, and third, intuition. He demonstrates that reason is involved in its apprehension of common notions, universal to all humanity, and states that they form a stairway to ascend to intuition which is the highest form of cognition. It is Reason, as Professor Koistinen states that “… shows our finitude. There is much we would like to understand and we find ideas in us that are confused. And Reason, through the teaching of the ethics, shows that our essence, or power, is a part or degree of God’s infinite power. It is this finite in the infinite experience that is the source of the intellectual love of God.” For Professor Koistinen, all along it has been Reason that leads us on this path and, hence, the title of his contribution, Spinoza’s Ode to Reason. The ultimate achievement of Reason is the attainment of the third kind of knowledge which is the intellectual love of God. The achievement of the third results in the blessedness of Humankind and reveals the convergence of the intellectual love of God with God. As Professor Koistinen writes, “… in such experience striving ceases and we are one with God. We partake in God’s perfection and feel love in the infinite.”


   It may be argued that this issue of thinking through the philosophes of the Enlightenment, to adapt a Wittgensteinian allusion, leaves philosophy as it is. Presentations from the rich multiple perspectives of these scholars, again and again, return to the battle between reason and religion, with eloquent discourses showing the merits of secularism, eloquent narratives pointing to the merits of religion, and equally eloquent narratives pointing out, in rational fashion, the merits and demerits of both vantage points. However, to depart from Wittgenstein, there are a number of essays that point to the need to broaden the scope of the Enlightenment beyond its narrow Western Eurocentric boundaries and include landmark inspirations from the Far East, Africa, what is now being referred to as the Global South, in short, all over the globe, all throughout the epochs of history, requiring us to reconsider both our human history and our historiography. It points to our urgent need both to reconstruct and to expand our narrative. To make a completely fresh start, as Aristotle would say, there are essays that point to the need for full female liberation and herald feminine philosophes who have been, despite the recognition given to them in their own Enlightened age, largely the underappreciated philosophers of the Eighteenth century. It is in these last two forms of contribution, of understanding and heralding the wider horizons of the inspiration for the Enlightenment that stretch far beyond its Eurocentric boundaries, and in acknowledging and fighting for full female emancipation, that we can perceive the formulation of a new Enlightenment, one, though just beginning to dawn on our global horizon, may augur or at least plead for a much broader philosophical landscape for the values of the 21st century.

Robert Elliott Allinson

Professor of Philosophy

Soka University of America

Guest Editor, Dialogue and Universalism, 31 (3), 2021





Selusi Ambrogio




   It is usually acknowledged that the core contribution of the Enlightenment is primarily twofold: the first being the introduction of reason and science as judgmental principles, and the second being the belief in the future progress of humankind as a shared destiny for humanity. This ‘modern’ reason—an exclusively human prerogative among creatures—could be applied to create a better society from the political, civil, educational, scientific, and religious points of view. What is usually less known is that for most of the Enlightenment thinkers, this philosophical and cultural step was the prerogative of European or Western-educated thinkers, which implied a gradual exclusion of extra-European civilizations from human progress as a natural phenomenon. Thus, with the exception of a few French libertines, the creation of a better society was due to reason and critical thinking absent in other civilizations, who could, at most, inherit this ‘rational power’ from Western education. This exclusion, which is usually attributed to the violence of the colonialist period, is already implied in the arguments of several Enlightenment thinkers. Our investigation will follow three steps: an exposition of the three Western historical paradigms in which Eastern civilizations were inserted between the 17th and 18th century; a comparison between the attitude toward China and Buddhism of two very distant philosophers of the Enlightenment—i.e. Pierre Bayle (1647– 1706) and Johann Jacob Brucker (1696–1770)—and a brief reflection on the Enlightenment from an ‘external/exotic’ point of view that will suggest the necessity of a ‘new skeptical Enlightenment’ for inducing actual intercultural dialogue.

Keywords: Chinese philosophy, Enlightenment, Pierre Bayle, Johan Jacob Brucker, Skepticism, Exoticism.

Affiliation: University of Macerata, Dip. Studiumanistici, via Cavour 2, 62100 Macerata MC, Italy.

Email: selusi.ambrogio@outlook.it




Debra Bergoffen




   This paper examines the ways that feminists have built on and transformed Mary Wollstonecraft’s Enlightenment idea that women’s rights are human rights. It argues that Wollstonecraft’s marginal attention to the issue of sexual violence reflects the mind-body dualism of her era where reason divorced from the body established our dignity as persons. Today’s feminists reject this dualism. They have adopted and retooled Wollstonecraft’s idea that women’s rights are human rights to (1) create solidarity among women of different places, races, classes, religions etc., (2) break the silence surrounding the experience and meaning of rape, and (3) create grassroots, national and international forums that expose the fact that sexual violence is one of the crucial anchors of patriarchy. Wollstonecraft believed that human rights were guaranteed by reason and God. We find that these rights are embodied and fragile. They depend on us to make them real. Addressing this responsibility, the paper ends with a question: Are we up to the task?

Keywords: Wollstonecraft, human rights, women’s rights, sexual violence, body.

Affiliation: George Mason University.

E-mail: dbergoff@gmu.edu




David Chai




   Having reached its zenith in the Song dynasty, Chinese landscape painting in the dynasties that followed became highly formulaic as artists simply copied the old masters to perfect their skills. This orthodox approach was not accepted by everyone however; some painters criticized it, arguing it was better to learn the ideas behind the techniques of the old masters than to blindly copy them. Shitao was one such critic and his Manual on Painting exemplifies his desire to disassociate himself from the classical approach to painting. This paper will investigate the three major themes of Shitao’s text—the holistic brushstroke, brush and ink, and the method of no-method—in order to show how they shaped his view of landscape painting and how said paintings subsequently embodied them. Unlike the near-scientific approach taken by his contemporaries and predecessors, Shitao paints to capture the unifying simplicity of nature, an ontoaesthetic experience that is profoundly enlightening.

Keywords: Shitao, Chinese painting, holistic brushstroke, Daoism.

Affiliation: Chinese University of Hong Kong.

E-mail: davidchai@cuhk.edu.hk




Alexander Cook




   The French Revolution had a complex relationship with historical thought. In a significant sense, the politics of 1789 was built upon a rejection of the authority of the past. As old institutions and practices were swept away, many champions of the Revolution attacked conventional historical modes for legitimating authority, seeking to replace them with a politics anchored in notions of reason, natural law and natural rights. Yet history was not so easily purged from politics. In practice, symbols and images borrowed from the past saturated Revolutionary culture. The factional disputes of the 1790s, too, invoked history in a range of ways. The politics of nature itself often relied on a range of historical propositions and, as the Revolution developed, a new battle between “ancients” and ‘moderns’ gradually emerged amongst those seeking to direct the future of France. This article explores these issues by focusing on a series of lectures delivered at the École Normale in the Year III (1795), in the wake of Thermidor and the fall of Robespierre. The lectures, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, were designed to lay out a program for historical pedagogy in the French Republic. Their author, Constantin-Francois Volney (1757–1820), was one of a group of figures who sought, during these years, to stabilise French politics by tying it to the development of  a new form of social science—a science that would eventually be labelled “idéologie.” With this in mind, Volney sought to promote historical study as an antidote to the political appropriation of the past, with particular reference to its recent uses in France. In doing so, he also sought to appropriate the past for political purposes. These lectures illustrate a series of tensions in the wider Revolutionary relationship with history, particularly during the Thermidorian moment. They also, however, reflect ongoing ambiguities in the social role of the discipline and the self-understanding of itspractitioners.

Keywords: Constantin-François Volney, idéologie, idéologues, École Normale, Thermidor, French Revolution, historiography, uses of history.

Affiliation: Australian National University in Canberra, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.

Email: alexander.cook@anu.edu.au




Karen Green




   Can Catharine Macaulay’s enlightenment democratic republicanism be justified from the point of view of contemporary naturalism? Naturalist accounts of political authority tend to be realist and pessimistic, foreclosing the possibility of enlightenment. Macaulay’s utopian political philosophy relies on belief in a good God, whose existence underpins the possibility of moral and political progress. This paper attempts a restoration of her optimistic utopianism in a reconciliation, grounded in a revision of natural law, of naturalist and utopian attitudes to political theory. It is proposed that the coevolution of language, moral law, and conscience (the disposition to judge one’s own actions in the light of moral principles) can be explained as solutions to the kinds of tragedy of the commons situations facing our ancestors. Moral dispositions evolved,  but, in the light of its function, law is subject to rational critique. Liberal democracy plausibly offers the best prospect for developing rationally justifiable law.

Keywords: natural law, evolution of morality, democratic liberalism, enlightenment, political progress.

Affiliation: School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

E-mail: karen.green@unimelb.edu.au




Xing Guozhong, Shang Chen




   Chinese Confucianism, which emerged during the Axial Age, has had a profound influence on many intellectual and cultural movements in history, including the European Enlightenment. This article analyzes the influence of Confucianism on the European Enlightenment from four perspectives: human rights, a benevolent government, religion and nature. The humanist spirit propagated by Confucianism was similar to the views expressed by Enlightenment thinkers on reason and human rights and provided a powerful ideological weapon for Enlightenment thinkers to criticize religious theocracy and break through the darkness of the Middle Ages. During this process of learning and absorbing the humanist spirit of Confucianism, French Enlightenment thinkers developed the rational and critical spirit of the Enlightenment and paved the way for intellectual liberation. Today, the world is facing the new challenges of global climate change, artificial intelligence and genetic technology. In the context of these global problems, China and the West can learn from each other and join efforts to gather new ideological resources to carry out a new ideological enlightenment movement on a global scale and achieve sustainable development for all humanity.

Keywords: Confucian humanism, Enlightenment, benevolence, human rights, religion.


Xing Guozhong – Beijing Normal University, School of Marxism Studies, P. R. China, Beijing, no. 19, XinJieKouWai St., HaiDian District, 100875, China. 

E-mail: xingguozhong@126.com

Shang Chen – Beijing Normal University, School of Marxism Studies, P. R. China, Beijing, no. 19, XinJieKouWai St., HaiDian District, 100875, China.

E-mail: shangchen910@126.com




Dag Herbjørnsrud






   This paper will contend that we, in the first quarter of the 21st century, need an enhanced Age of Reason  based  on  global  epistemology. One reason  to legitimize such a call for more intellectual enlightenment is the lack of required information on nonEuropean philosophy in today’s reading lists at European and North American universities. Hence, the present-day Academy contributes to the scarcity of knowledge about the world’s global history of ideas outside one’s ethnocentric sphere. The question is whether we genuinely want to rethink parts of the “Colonial Canon” and its main narratives of the past.

   This article argues that we, if we truly desire, might create “a better Enlightenment.” Firstly, by raising the general knowledge level concerning the philosophies of the Global South. Thus, this text includes examples from the global enlightenments in China, Mughal India, Arabic-writing countries, and Indigenous North America—all preceding and influencing the European Enlightenment. Secondly, we can rebuild by rediscovering the Enlightenment ideals within the historiography of the “hidden enlightenment” of Europe’s and North America’s past. In Part I, of two parts of this paper, a comparative methodology will be outlined. In addition, examples will be given from the history of ideas in India and China to argue that we need to study how these regions influenced the European history of ideas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Finally, towards the end of this text, a re-reading of the contributions from Egypt and Greece aspires to give a more global and complex context for Western Europe’s so-called Age of Reason.

Keywords: Enlightenment, global intellectual history, history of ideas, global knowledge, universalism, nationalism, decolonizing.

Affiliation: University of Oslo.

E-mail: dag@sgoki.org




Dag Herbjørnsrud






   The Age of Enlightenment is more global and complex than the standard Eurocentric Colonial Canon narrative presents. For example, before the advent of unscientific racism and the systematic negligence of the contributions of Others outside of “White Europe,” Raphael centered Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in his Vatican fresco “Causarum Cognitio” (1511); the astronomer Edmund Halley taught himself Arabic to be more enlightened; The Royal Society of London acknowledged the scientific method developed by Ibn Al-Haytham (Alhazen). In addition, if we study the Transatlantic texts of the late 18th century, it is not Kant, but instead enlightened thinkers like Anton Wilhelm Amo (born in present-day’s Ghana), Phillis Wheatley (Senegal region), and Toussaint L’Ouverture (Haiti), who mostly live up to the ideals of reason, humanism, universalism, and human rights. One obstacle to developing a more balanced presentation of the Age of the Enlightenment is the influence of colonialism, Eurocentrism, and methodological nationalism. Consequently, this paper, part II of two, will also deal with the European Enlightenment’s unscientific heritage of scholarly racism from the 1750s. It will be demonstrated how Linnaeus, Hume, Kant, and Hegel were among the Founding Fathers of intellectual white supremacy within the Academy.

   Hence, the Age of Enlightenment is not what we are taught to believe. This paper will demonstrate how the lights from different “Global Enlightenments” can illuminate paths forward to more dialogue and universalism in the 21st century.

Keywords: Enlightenment, Colonial Canon, colonialism, Eurocentrism, racism, white supremacy, Black Lives Matter.




Brian Klug




   Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s “dramatic poem” Nathan the Wise (1779) stood out at the time because it showed a Jew, Nathan, in a good light—a better light than the average Christian. Nathan is presented as a figure of wisdom largely on account of his approach to religious difference, especially among the religions represented by the three main protagonists: the Sultan Saladin (Islam), the Knight Templar (Christianity) and Nathan himself (Judaism). In the context of the conflicts of early modern Europe, his message—on the nature of religious difference and the need for toleration—might well seem to earn him the epithet “wise.” This message, which is also the message of the  play as a whole, is reinforced by the fact that it is a Jew who delivers it. But, on closer examination, is he the person that at first sight he appears to be? Furthermore, if he were teleported to the here and now, would his take on difference and toleration have enough heft? The essay interrogates the figure of Nathan and answers both questions in the negative. It argues that we need a new Nathan for our globalised, post-colonial, postShoah world: a Nathan who is wise in a different fashion.

Keywords: wise, Jew, religion, difference, toleration.

Affiliation: University of Oxford.

E-mail: brian.klug@stb.ox.ac.uk




Olli Koistinen 




   In this paper, the main features of Spinoza’s conception of Reason are laid out. First, how Reason differs on the one hand from opinion and imagination and on the other  hand from intuitive knowledge. After  that the validation  of  Reason  is considered. As  I interpret Benedict de Spinoza, even finite subjects enjoy freedom of Reason. I will give the reasons for this doctrine which seems to be inconsistent with Spinoza’s universal determinism. One of the most fascinating aspects of Spinoza’s rationalism is that the acts of reason are intrinsically motivating in bringing joy to the thinker. I will try to make sense of that view. In the concluding section of the paper, I try to make sense of how this affective feature of reasoning as an intrinsically joyful activity leads to rational love of God which, if things go well, leads to intellectual love of God in which our blessedness or salvation lies.

Keywords: Freedom, God, imagination, infinite, intuition, knowledge, love, reason, Spinoza.

Affiliation: University of Turku, Finland.

E-mail: okoisti@utu.fi




Alessandro Pinzani




   This paper argues that Kant’s project of a metaphysics of morals represents a normative ideal grounded on the core ideas of Enlightenment. In the first section, it analyzes Kant’s concept of metaphysical principles of morals by establishing a connection between a metaphysics of morals and Kant’s concept of metaphysics in general and of metaphysics of nature in particular. It then discusses what is metaphysical in the Doctrine of Right and the Doctrine of Virtue. In its last section, it tackles the question of whether a non-metaphysical reading of Kant’s doctrines of right and of virtue is desirable if we want to remain faithful to Kant’s Enlightenment project.

Keywords: Kant, metaphysics of morals, doctrine of right, doctrine of virtue, Enlightenment.

Affiliation: Federal University of Santa Catarina, Depto de Filosofia CFH, Campus Trindade, Florianopolis SC, 88040-900 Brazil.

E-mail: alessandro@cfh.ufsc.br




Odile Richard




   This study deals with the contemporary relevance of Diderot’s ideas in matters of education. Neither a treatise nor an essay, Diderot’s practical observations are scattered throughout his letter correspondence and his fictional novels. According to our enquiry, the more physiological aspects are dealt with in the Encyclopedia. We will see that Diderot’s position is unconventional but does not necessarily follow in Rousseau’s wake. He rather tries to reach a fair balance between freedom and duty, focusing on women and sexual emancipation.

Keywords: Diderot, education, children, Encyclopedia, correspondence, fiction, ethics, modernity.

Affiliation: University of Limoges (France).

E-mail: odile.richard@unilim.fr




Anna Tomaszewska




   In recent publications on the Enlightenment, Baruch Spinoza is often associated with the radical “fringe,” advocating against Christianity and giving rise to the incipient process of secularization. In this paper, it is argued that we should look for Spinoza’s influence on the Enlightenment in his ideas inspiring heterodox theologians: radical reformers aiming to “rationalize” revelation but not to dismiss it altogether. Several cases of such thinkers are adduced and shortly discussed: Jarig Jelles, Johan Christian Edelmann, Carl Friedrich Bahrdt and Immanuel Kant. Finally, three ways of conceptualizing the relation between Enlightenment and religion are sketched to address the question whether the sources of secularization can indeed be traced back to the Enlightenment.

Keywords: Enlightenment, Spinoza, rational religion, heterodoxy, secularization.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

E-mail: anna.tomaszewska@uj.edu.pl.




Meng Zhang




   This paper aims to redeem part of the Enlightenment project through a critical appreciation of David Hume’s practical philosophy. It argues that Hume’s practical philosophy, if interpreted correctly, is immune to two major charges leveled against the Enlightenment in critical theories and in philosophical ethics, respectively. One trend is represented by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, who claim that inherent to the advocacy of rationality typical of the Enlightenment is the irrational adoration of instrumental reason, which obliterates individual particularity, commodifies human relationships, and oppresses the human urge to express passionately. The other trend is represented by Alasdair McIntyre, who claims that the Enlightenment project is doomed to fail because it ventures to justify a historically and culturally conditioned morality as universal. Against the first critique, I argue that Hume’s reliance on the affective tendencies to derive a standard of moral values avoids the idolatry of  rationality. Against the second critique, I argue that Hume’s characterization of virtues as qualities of personality that facilitate interpersonal relationships allows ample room for the cultural variance of values.

Keywords: Hume, Enlightenment, Dialectic of the Enlightenment, Critical Theory, communitarianism.

Affiliation: Florida State University, 600 W College Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.

E-mail: mengzhang69@outlook.com


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