Chapter One: What is Enlightenment?
Provides a brief overview of the important thinkers of the Enlightenment. The 18th century, of course, is the century in question. 1783 Berlin Monatschrift asked "What is Enlightenment" and received quite a few replies, including one from Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804). Moses Mendelssohn - new development of reason and education. (An important mid-figure or central figure is Dennis Diderot: 1713-1784.) Kant describes the Enlightenment "man's release from his self-incurred immaturity by the use of his own reason, undistorted by prejudice and without the guidance of others. "Sapere aude" have the courage to know - this is the motto of the En. What happens if men think without limits? Does thought necessarily have a positive outcome? What are the consequences of free thought? If the Enlightenment is a process and not a project, it fraught with dangers and problems.
Authors who have written about the Enlightenment. First is Mr. Enlightenment, Ernst Cassirer, who wrote the Philosophy of the Enlightenment (from Leibnitz 1646- 1716 to Immanuel Kant - 1724-1804 ) He calls it "a value system rooted in Rationality" and focused on the intellectual movement by great thinkers - Cassirer was not so interested in social or political context. Peter Gay also interested in great thinkers. Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, D'Alembert, Jean Jaques Rosseau, Lessing and Kant are late Enlightenment. Gay saw the Enlightenment as hostile to religion and, in a search for freedom, supportive of the critical use of reason to change man's relationship with himself and society. Gay thought that the American Revolution - the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- was the fulfillment of Enlightenment programs. He highlighted the critical process of the Enlightenment, and the diversity within its unity. But in the 1970s, people started considering other aspects. The center- periphery was one way to organize a discussion, and Franco Venturi looked at the transmission of ideas from the center to the periphery through newspapers, pamphlets and books. What were the stresses and strains of the Empire(s) as they developed? What is the social basis of the Enlightenment? How were ideas disseminated, absorbed, used by society? Robert Darnton, for instance, asks "what is the history of largely forgotten authors whom the public would have read?" What were the commercial conditions that made possible the success of publishing ventures? Including, of course, the Encyclopedia of D'Alembert and Diderot. Anthropological ideas in to evaluate historical movements. Post 1945 interpretations include Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer. The Dialectic of the Enlightenment - a paradox lies at the heart of the Enlightenment. "the fully Enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant." Man's sovereignty over nature, and over others, by rationality and technology, from is fearful totalitarian movement, especially the refusal to accept meaning apart from rationality. Essentially, human beings do not in fact, agree on what is rational, and can only be brought into line by political terror. The Enlightenment makes "administered life" and human "management" possible. And, finally, knowledge becomes a commodity like any other. Turning to Jurgen Habermas, a bit more positive on the Enlightenment - The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962). He saw the Enlightenment as a project which still had to be completed. Able to enlighten and emancipate individuals, allowing them to search for freedom, justice and objectivity. Created a public realm for the discussion and transformation of opinions. [Question: was public opinion lacking in force prior to this? Maybe there was no broad vehicle to talk back, no multiplicity of views .?] Foucault also took that view - abandoning his earlier position that there was a huge break. Reason becomes an agent of change.
Outram says the Enlightenment is not only one but several key issues tugging at each other and happening in the 18th century. OK .
Chapter 2: Consumers and the Social Context of the Enlightenment. Cultural Media, Trade and Literacy.
(Darnton is important to this discussion.) Familiarity with the printed word was spreading throughout society, and a concomitant literacy was on the rise. She says the new form, the novel, was read at the expense of theology. Of borrowed books (in England), 10 % were history, biography and travel; 70% were novels; and less than 1% were other religious works. Important to understand is that there is a growing set of professional writers - Grub Street - working for the market: available to the reading public were political scandal, pornography, books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, book reviews, children's books, novels, theatrical scripts, opera libretti, and retellings of medieval romances. The man of arts is liberated from the necessity of a patron, but of course no one would really mind it if a patron came along. There formed a fault line between secure and insecure writers.
Another movement is the disenfranchisement of women - since they were fundamentally emotional, embodying the opposite of reason, they needed to be excluded from the whole movement of the Enlightenment. (A question: is this because the traditional roles of men are being eroded? Strength is not needed?) As they need to redefine themselves as capable of intellectual pursuits, they must so take on the task of redefining women, too. Urban places where ideas are formed: first, consider the Masons as a European-wide society, where people exchanged ideas. Other semi-elite places to exchange ideas included : libraries, coffee houses, academic clubs, and as mentioned, masonic lodges. These organizations were based on the exchange of ideas rather than to mark display or social rank. Further examples were The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and The Lunar Society. By contrast, the chapbooks known as the Bibliotheque Bleue published by a group in Troyes were the information sources for rural society. Medieval romances were one of the interpenetrations between high and low culture. Servants were another important conduit between rural peasant communities and urban employers. So how affected were the rural populations by the ideas of the Enlightenment? Not much, says Outram. There is a worldwide trade of consumer goods, including books, newspapers, pamphlets, prints, and reproductions. Culture becomes commodified. A wide audience of extensive rather than intensive readers catered to by an army of professional writers. The growth of public opinion, which includes the elite but also includes a middle class which is broader than the elite.
Chapter Three: The rise of modern paganism?
The Enlightenment can be seen as a time characterized by a deliberate effort
to undermine religious belief and organization. German G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831)
says, "the Enlightenment was an inherently religious movement; the French
philosophes carried out the Lutheran Reformation in a different form in their
attacks on the realm of the spiritual experience." Instead of completing
the Reformation, was in danger of destroying faith altogether. Sense, rooted
fast in earthly things, and the spirit was impoverished by reliance on reason.
The Enlightenment failed to produce any beliefs which could possibly replace
religious faith, and shifted the grounds of debate away from religious truth
to questions of utility - what can religion do for society? Man - judging himself
- lacks the ability to do so, and the ability to form non-utilitarian ties to
other human beings. (He shares Kant's viewpoint that the Enlightenment is an
uncompleted project). Outram thinks Hegel's reading of the Enlightenment is
right for France but not necessarily for everywhere else. Great religious creativity
is also going on: Methodism, Anglicanism, The Great Awakening in the US, Pietism
in Germany, Hassidism in Polish Jewry, all of which is personal and emphasizes
emotional faith. Two important measures for toleration: 1689 English Parliament
passed the Toleration Act in GB, and 1787 limited toleration to Protestants
in France. The Thirty Years War is just over, and Enlightenment thinkers are
looking at the past with revulsion, as the late 20th century thinkers were with
the Holocaust. The new monarchial state was being created: in contrast to a
community of believers, there would be an impersonal state, where the belief
of individuals could be separated from loyalty to the state. Somewhat unusual
is Frederick the II of Prussia (1712 -86) who, personally an unbeliever, established
policies of wide religious toleration within his kingdom, welcoming particularly
Pietists because they believed in service to the State and to others. He is
in contrast to Maria Theresa of Austria, a Catholic monarch happy to deport
Bohemian Protestants. Many religion denominations were anxious to establish
themselves as reasonable - and questioning the status and authority of the Bible
was an unintended by-product of this attempt. In 1695 John Locke publishes The
Reasonableness of Christianity (early, what?) and in 1757 David Hume offers
the Natural History of Religion. It was the first history in comparative religions
- discussing religion as a creation of man, and not as revelation from God.
Isaac Newton, 1687, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Newton
believed in an ordered cosmos in which God interfered to add energy. Others
popularized Newton as a kind of Deist, which he was not. A question which took
on steam - is man basically good or bad? Does he need a savior or not? Handel's
Messiah drew huge crowds in the same time frame as the 1748 Essay on Miracles
argues against them. Can we trust the New Testament as revelation? We cannot
think so. And don't forget our friend Giambattista Vico 1668-1744, a Neapolitan
historian, who saw that history should be seen as man's own capacity for progress.
1755 saw the Lisbon earthquake, and began a loud public debate on "how
could a good God let this happen?"
Church lands and labor were under siege, desired by rulers. At the same time, Jesuits are being swept out of Europe - between 1759 and 1771. Outram says that the folks who tried to make faith reasonable caused as many problems as they solved, and ran the risk of erecting human reason as the focus of a new religion. The Enlightenment sees the breakdown of the idea that political and religious communities must be co-terminus.
Chapter 4: Science and the Enlightenment.
Science occupied a very different place in the 18th century - it was contested, its institutional organizations were weak, and its relationships to the government and the economy were tenuous. For many scientists, science is the cultural category, not religion, of the Enlightenment. The term "scientist" wasn't coined until 1830 in England (William Whewell) so these were ventures in natural philosophy - looking at nature to see God's creation, powers and purposes, and such efforts shaded into, and were previously indistinguishable from, Theology, but now became a separate effort. Nature has a very varied set of meanings, including an uncorrupted state, a moral idea, or a discernible order. Vico argues in New Science (1725) we can really only know our own human institutions through insight into our own characters; science, by contrast, is wavering, and because it is known through the fallible senses, can never be fully known. In the vein of rigorous knowing, Hume argues that we cannot understand causation - all we have is custom. We cannot really know if the sun will rise tomorrow, and we cannot presume the Creator from his creation. Practitioners of science included Newton, who thought "first- order" questions could not be answered by scientific inquiry. He also didn't say that the universe was self-generating and self-regulating universe - instead, he thought it tended to lose energy, and needed periodic re-envigorating. By the by, the only French translator of Newton is a woman, Voltaire's companion, the Madame la Marquise du Chastellet, who reworked the mathematics considerably (presumably to make them intelligible). Newton was a heretic, a defender of the faith, a brilliant observer, or not he's a big whitewater in the Enlightenment stream. Is there an order of Nature - and how is it be understood? The great chain of being is replaced by a taxonomy illustrating new relationships among things - cf. Carl Linnaus (1709-1798) and the Comte de Buffon, a popularizer and publisher, and Nature had a history, not just in the state God created it, and was much older than the current Biblical chronology. Inserting historical thinking into natural history, says Foucault, made an essential break with thinking of preceding periods, which were much more concerned to put beings into static taxonomic relations with each other. It opens the door for Darwin. By the way, at the end of the century come the Romantics, reacting to both the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. What about the middle class? Popular science lectures in Great Britain, Netherlands, France and Italy, and a wave of universities founded in Germany. In the 1660s the Royal Society in London and the Paris Academy of Science are founded, as well as smaller societies and academies, as above. There are new zoological and botanical gardens. And governments begin to see the economic value of science in technology, and want to pay for agriculture, forestry, mining, veterinary medicine, and at the end of the century, statistics and probabilities as a way of predicting social needs and natural resources. By the end of the century, Nature is a form of therapy.
Chapter 5: The Exotic
Outram suggests that Robinson Crusoe (1719) is a parable, conscious or otherwise, of the relationship between European and the rest of the world in the Enlightenment. What makes "the exotic" so important in the Enlightenment? First, there are important voyages of discovery, including, of course, James Cook in (1728-79) and Louis-Anne de Bougainville (1729-1811), revealing about 1/3 of the earth's surface to Europeans. Images immediately invaded high (paintings) and low art (prints) and Cook's Journals were a best-seller. As Europe began to end its hostilities with Islam and the Ottoman Empire (Vienna, 1689), they cast about for a new "other," (is that timing right?), and found them in the Pacific. Outram says that in the 16th and 17th centuries explorers wondered whether or not American Indians were human and had souls. In the 18th century, they asked whether or not there was a universal human nature, what the meaning of human history was, and what the worth of human civilization might be (p.65). And a central failure of the Enlightenment, says Outram, is the way in which it dealt with difference.
In the past, "foreigners" were used for literary satire on home institutions. Now, in the Pacific, they found primitive, natural, unspoiled peoples to inspect, admire, and position as against their own cultural artificiality and social stratification. Pacific Islanders offered a view of European forebears - Greek and Roman primitives - and at the same time, they were alien, other and opposite. Living "noble savages" were brought back to delight and educate London and Paris in the 1770s. Tantalizing was the idea that there was really a utopia out there. That idea was tarnished by the death of Cook in 1779, and after the French Revolution in 1789, the concept of "the natural" was on the wane. At the end of the century it no longer seemed sensible to compare Europe's problems to Tahiti.
Who is human? Who deserves rights? Why did God establish different races? In his 1766 History of Civil Society, Adam Ferguson argues that human societies pass through four stages: hunting, pastoralism, agriculture and commerce. Linnaus at first gave four classificatory groups (white Europeans, red American Indians, black Africans, and brown Asians), and then added wild men, pygmies and giants. By contrast, J.G. Herder (1744-1803) didn't see other cultures as prior states to our own, but as units in their own right. "The opposite of culture is not nature, but another and different culture."
Explorers note how little natives were benefiting from European contact and in 1770 the Abbe Guillaume Thomas Reynal gives a long book to the subject. Page 73 has a longish quote from Reynal which I include below:
There has never been any event which has had more impact on the human race in general and for Europeans in particular, as that of the discovery of the New World, and the passage to the Indies around the Cape of Good Hope. It was then that a commercial revolution began, a revolution in the balance of power, and in the customs, the industries and the government of every nation. It was through this event that men in the most distant lands were linked by new relationships and needs. The produce of equatorial regions were consumed in Polar climes. The industrial products of the north were transported to the south; the textiles of the Orient became the Luxuries of Westerners; and everywhere men mutually exchanged their opinions, their laws, their customs, their illnesses, and their Medicines, their virtues and their vices. Everything changed, and will go on changing. But will the changes of the past and those that are to come, be useful to humanity? Will they give man one day more peace, more happiness, or more pleasure? Will his condition be better, or will it be simply one of constant change?
Slavery has never been an unvexed issue, but opposition takes steam as the institution clashes with Enlightenment ideals about common humanity. From the point of view of the state, missionary zeal is no longer a reason to explore or contact foreign lands, but slavery is important to producing a needed national cash flow. The prosperity upon which the rapid circulation of Enlightenment ideas depended was sustained by colonial trade based on slave labor. (Is that true? Outram thinks so, but many authors have argued otherwise - as percentage of the whole, colonial trade wasn't significant) The opposition does get organized: in 1788 the French Society des Amis Des Noirs is formed and in 1787 The British Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is founded. Here is the central contrast: "they are exotic and familiar, exemplary and exploitable." And in the 19th century comes nationalism.
Chapter Six, Gender
Such energy is poured into the definition of gender, this period can bee seen as a watershed in the attempt to define the differences between the sexes. Key terms are nature, reason and virtue. Medical writings suggested that women were only "all about" reproduction and sex (usually repressed). Man is man only at certain moments, but women are women in all situations. (Rosseau). Gender and biology are beginning to be equated.
A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792, suggests that tyranny begins at home, that women can be rational, and that the failure to apply Enlightenment ideals to half the population is a failure indeed. Definitions of nature are conflated with femininity, with the consequence that women are conquered, mastered, made use of, figured as subjects. Paradoxically while woman are credulous and incapable of reasoning, yet they are the carriers/creators of a new natural, polite modern family morality opposed to the current unnatural artificiality of society. Now that there is a large-scale industrial output for global markets, middle-class women are to be consumers in a domestic sphere. And women who stay at home don't earn, but provide maternal care and emotional support. But women who work - and there are plenty of them - don't quite fit in this model. There is a new group of professional women writers, and this is new. The 17th century salon carries forward to the 18th, but the new hostesses are not necessarily elite. The precieuses (mannered female hostesses, verbal gamesters and trend-setters) become the moneyed middle-class science fans. They foster spaces for non-aristocratic thinkers, career intellectuals, to air their ideas and get social and political recognition. Rosseau didn't care for salons, plays, or women in politics, but Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu didn't hold such prejudiced ideas.
Chapter 7, Enlightenment and Government.
Did the Enlightenment add something new to statecraft, or was it "business
as usual" during the 18th century in Europe? As we saw earlier, Immanuel
Kant reflected on the limits to free-thinking and this question bears on this
chapter. Outram offers a brief historiography of the idea of enlightened absolutism.
In 1937 the idea is first advanced, but after 1945 the concept came under attack,
and after the 1960s, the Enlightenment is no longer seen as a unitary phenomenon
dominated by a few great French thinkers. How do we sort out what government
actions were specifically affected by the Enlightenment? Venturi argued for
a strong effect. Marx(ism), by contrast, said that the Enlightenment was a superstructure
layer covering up the tug between the feudal and bourgeoisie agendas. Outram
scouts this view as unhistorical - there were no powerful bourgeoisie at the
time (really?) and feudalism actually prevented the Eastern European states
from participating in the En. Also, a superstructure distinguishes between thoughts
and deeds in a historically unhelpful way (humm
) Outram covers Reinhard
Koselleck's 1956 Critique and Crisis, in which he argues that governments re-established
order via religious toleration after the Thirty Year's War but created a space
for public opinion as a way to neutralize action. This work, says Outram, is
enjoying something of a revival, but is also informed by Koselleck's personal
experiences of divided Germany. The developing nation-states of Europe are very
different in size and cultures, challenges and rulers and their appropriation
of the Enlightenment likewise varies. Cameralism is an important governmental
structure in Europe for Germany, Sweden, Russia and Denmark, and the division
between non-Cameralist states and Cameralists states is as important to understand
as Protestant and Catholic divisions. In Cameralist states - small states and
the scattered Hapsburg lands - the state had known and agreed-upon obligations
to their citizens, social regulation and social welfare. When the new universities
were founded, government bureaucrats were trained for the job, and became an
international class of experts. Upholding rationality, notes Outram, allows
for Cameralist governments to interfere locally in the name of a larger humanity.
By contrast, Enlightenment thinkers were not invited to be a part of French
government. In the one known case, the physiocrat Ann-Robert Turgot was a disaster
because he believed in free markets: enacting his conviction led to a huge rise
in grain prices, riots, and his dismissal.
Of course, the influential Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations is published in 1776..
NB. Frederick the II started two big wars? The War of Austrian Succession and The Seven Years' War
Joseph the II, son of Maria Theresa of Austria, (post 1780) upheld Enlightenment ideals to the general dissatisfaction of his subjects and officials: for toleration edicts, university education, but against expensive ecclesiastical practices like recruiting more monks and nuns, Saint's days and holidays, displays in church. And out with the Jesuits! Where were the conflicts?: Joseph were ousting the church from its lands and the agricultural labor it kept idle; they were also attempting to weaken the guilds, and also in some cases, end serfdom. Those rulers who left well-enough alone - Catherine and Frederick - had a better ride through monarchy.
By the end of the century, "economic resources" includes people, industry and innovation. By the end of the 18th Century, enlightened absolutism leads to the concept of the ruler as the first servant of his people, as articulated by Frederick II. These ideas were not just tools for legitimation, but actual ideas in practice. "Losers" were trade guilds, sovereign legal bodies, aristocratic representative institutions and the Catholic church. "Winners" were Public hygiene, education and economic regulation.
Chapter 9: Did the Enlightenment end with a Revolution?
Did the Enlightenment philosophes cause the French revolution? Some historians have said yes, others not, but Outram says no. (I don't quite buy "no" ) Abbe Barruel (1741-1820), a contemporary conservative ex-Jesuit writer, said "yes" and cried, convincingly, "conspiracy theory!" In 1856, De Tocqueville argued the reverse: the state was too powerful for the naïve thinkers of the Enlightenment. Outram says there were many revolutions throughout the century, of which the French was only one, and memorable because of the Jacobin Reign of Terror. Rather than a wheel of fortune, history is figured as one-directional, and this is an important change. A painful change from a sacred to a rational basis is the movement of all governments, and what we can say clearly is the Enlightenment did not stop the criticism of the French government. And the Enlightenment contributed many new ways to legitimate power, added new ways for public opinion to be heard and expressed, and created new social structures for the elites.