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Enlightenment, Continental

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DB025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Enlightenment is frequently portrayed as a campaign on behalf of freedom and reason as against dogmatic faith and its sectarian and barbarous consequences in the history of Western civilization. Many commentators who subscribe to this view find the Enlightenment’s cosmopolitan opposition to priestly theology to be dangerously intolerant itself, too committed to uniform ideals of individual self-reliance without regard to community or diversity, or to recasting human nature in the light of science. Modern debates about the nature of the Enlightenment have their roots in eighteenth-century controversies about the arts and sciences and about ideas of progress and reason and the political consequences of promoting them. Even when they shared common objectives, eighteenth-century philosophers were seldom in agreement on substantive issues in epistemology or politics. If they were united at all, it was by virtue only of their collective scepticism in rejecting the universalist pretensions of uncritical theology and in expressing humanitarian revulsion at crimes committed in the name of sacred truth.

Citing this article:
Wokler, Robert. Enlightenment, Continental, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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