Talk:Age of Enlightenment

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"(All) liberals worship this period of time philosophical movement; however, it could be argued that it was stupid and brought violence and tyranny somehow. People who defend it are wrong for the same reason."[1] Maybe I'm misinterpreting all this, but it seems like arbitrary liberal- and enlightenment-bashing and doesn't refer to any details or backup. ~ Kupochama[1][2] 22:44, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Ideas are borne from man; actions stem from ideas. The cognitive dissonance kicks in when people try to pretened there was a disconnect between the ideas and the actions. MarcusCicero (talk) 08:18, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
The whole third paragraph is complete nonsense. It argues that the most important consequence of Enlightenment thought was the terror of the Jacobins, while being completely silent about things like modern democracy, the concepts of human rights and civil liberties, rationalism and scientific thought. Of course there's a connection between these developments, brought about by action, and Enlightenment ideas, and that's the reason why this movement is hailed as the foundation of modern Western civilization. If it had all just been about a "delusional love of abstract ideas", nobody would bother with it. You also seem to have no clue what the social contract is (hint: it's a rather abstract idea, and there are many competing conceptions of it). And the ultimate expression of "cognitive dissonance" would be to have an anti-Enlightenment hit piece worthy of Conservapedia on a rationalist web site. Röstigraben (talk) 08:59, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You talk about the social contract as if it hadn't existed before Rousseau. Or that the idea of human rights, civil liberties or rationalism (I always find it funny when rationalism is heralded in this way. 'The Cult of Reason' of the revolutionary French government is all I need point out here) were previously non existant. This is part of the problem with the modern obsession with the enlightenment; its seen as some kind of march forward in the forces of history, where hithertoo there had been only darkness and obscuritanism. Anti enlightenment thinkers like Burke and Wilburforce did more than any philosophe to end slavery; the American Revolution was based on Lockean Whiggism and limited power. In a sense you are right, the Enlightenment was the beginning of western 'civilisation' (Whatever that is) However as most historians of modern Europe know, western civilisation was one grand delusion that eventually culminated with the bloodfields of the trenches in 1914-1918 and the holocaust of the 1940s. If the enlightenment laid the seeds for that madness, then I suppose you have a point. MarcusCicero (talk) 09:37, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Just a quick point about democracy; the democracy of the French Republic was a sham and based on property rights. It was reactionary and populist. The democracy of Britain, which was virulently anti revolutionary, was settled in parliament in 1832 when the franchise was extended to the middle classes. Gradually, over the next century it was extended to everybody. To say that the French revolution and the enlightenment established democracy, human rights and civil liberties is to be in complete ignorance of British constitutional history. MarcusCicero (talk) 09:42, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Hmm... Looking over this article again, it seems to take a very broad interpretation of the Enlightenment, effectively allowing it to claim the entire vacuum from the early modern era to Napoleon. And that it considers Jefferson and Locke as Enlightenment thinkers, though I would consider them part of the British whig tradition (Jefferson less so, perhaps) Furthermore I focus my screed on the French enlightenment and subsequent revolution, one of the most insane periods of history that permeated by smug indulgence and complacency (They seemed to have thought that they 'figured history out') But anyway. MarcusCicero (talk) 09:53, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Of course it does, because that's what the accepted definition of the AoE is. I'm sure your local library carries a copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, look it up. You can't simply redefine it and equate it to the French Revolution. Röstigraben (talk) 10:44, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Smart people using their intelligence to be stupid faster and better is hardly unique to the French of that time - David Gerard (talk) 10:10, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
(EC)The social contract obviously didn't originate with Rousseau, it's Hobbes who'd come to mind. And the whole idea of basing the legitimacy of a social order on the rational interests of the subjects (instead of some "divine right of kings") is already a proto-Enlightenment concept, even though Hobbes was an adherent of Absolutism. Our modern human rights and civil liberties are founded on the concept of natural rights, which is a thought we owe to the Enlightenment as well, and whatever Greek and Christian precepts you'll find obviously didn't have much of an influence in pre-Enlightenment societies. If you compare our modern social and governmental systems to the old times and don't think we've made a huge progress since then, you're just plain crazy. The American Revolution in particular represents such a leap forward, and if you don't consider John Locke an Enlightenment thinker (like many of the founding fathers themselves), then I don't know who is. I never sourced modern democracy to the French Revolution, the aforementioned American example established the most important model, with the British constitutionalism coming in as a close second. When discussing the effects of the Enlightenment, you can't ignore the many, many good ones, especially when they're directly relevant to the philosophy of this particular site. Criticism of the radical excesses of a small, but powerful subset of the French revolutionaries might be warranted, but they're certainly not exclusively representative of the real-world impact of Enlightenment ideas. Also, Western civilization (not sure why you insist on the quotation marks here) didn't suddenly perish on the killing fields of Flanders and in the ovens of Auschwitz, and I'd like to hear one serious historian argue that these tragedies and crimes were an inevitable and particular consequence of the Enlightenment, of all things. Such a position would only make sense if you argue that the Enlightenment is the source of all of modern Western philosophy and ideology, from the good liberal and scientific aspects to the evils of totalitarianism. But in that case, you'll still have a hard time finding philosophers from the actual Age of Enlightenment directly arguing for the latter, and proving an intellectual affinity between their philosophies and the aberrations of late-modern political doctrines won't be much easier. You might be able to make a case for Marxism there, but only in its original abstract form - the reality of totalitarian Communism is completely incompatible with key Enlightenment ideas like democracy and individualism. Röstigraben (talk) 10:33, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm prepared to agree to disagree. If you would like to change anything, or remove it entirely, then be my guest. My major beef with the enlightenment is the complacency with which people regard it - the obsession with 'progress', as if that is a goal worthy in itself. But anyway, chop, remove, change at will. MarcusCicero (talk) 10:59, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
This article deserves an expansion, I'll see what I can do over the weekend. If you're willing to agree on the common definition of what constitutes the Age of Enlightenment and can come up with some criticism of it that doesn't exclusively focus on the Jacobins, it warrants inclusion. But your original points would be better suited to an article about Edmund Burke, the French Revolution or the reign of terror, neither of which we have. Röstigraben (talk) 11:11, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
We used to have an article on Edmund Burke. By the way, I am echoing other critics of the enlightenment, and there is a serious disconnect between what people regard as ideas and actions. But change as you will. MarcusCicero (talk) 11:13, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Looking a lot better[edit]

A job well done. MarcusCicero (talk) 23:12, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

There's more to add, but your criticism still doesn't fit in. If you want it included, can you please make it clear that this applies only to the French radicals, and if it's not just your personal opinion, a link or two would be nice. Röstigraben (talk) 20:26, 23 August 2010 (UTC)