Age of Enlightenment
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Enlightenment was a period of time ranging from part of the 17th century through much of the 18th century, characterized particularly by the importance of logic and reason, as well as by a growing public sphere. It culminated in the American and French revolutions, as well as the Industrial Revolution.
The motto of enlightenment was expressed by Immanuel Kant in "Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!". While seventeenth century philosophy saw the detachment of philosophy from theology, although it still offered arguments for the existence of – a deity, 18th-century philosophy was to go still further, leaving theology and religion behind altogether.)
- "Media, as we know it, first emerged at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Papers, journals, broadsheets, all became widely available in the new created public space of the coffeehouse. [...] The popular market for art and literature liberated writers and artists from the need for court patronage. No longer having to please their sponsors, they could experiment, and speak out as brashly as they wished." --Ken Goffman via Counterculture Through the Ages, p. 162
The Enlightenment was followed by Romanticism, which was a reaction against the rationalization of nature by the Enlightenment.
Contemporary art movements
anti-clericalism - capitalism (rise of) - clandestine and anonymous publishing - libertine - materialism - radical politics - reason (main trope) - French Revolution - Industrial Revolution (rise of) - print culture (result of)
Historians and texts
- The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom, Peter Gay, 1969.
- Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) - Horkheimer and Adorno
- Robert Darnton
- John Mullan
- Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
The French Encyclopédie was a quintessential summary of thought and belief of the Enlightenment. It tried to destroy superstitions and provide access to human knowledge. In ancien régime France it caused a storm of controversy, however. This was mostly due to its religious tolerance (though this should not be exaggerated; the article on "Atheism" defended the state's right to persecute and to execute atheists). The encyclopedia praised Protestant thinkers and challenged Catholic dogma. The entire work was banned; but because it had many highly placed supporters, work continued and each volume was delivered clandestinely to subscribers.
Social and cultural interpretation
In opposition to the intellectual historiographical approach of the Enlightenment, which examines the various currents, or discourses of intellectual thought within the European context during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the cultural (or social) approach examines the changes that occurred in European society and culture. Under this approach, the Enlightenment is less a collection of thought than a process of changing sociabilities and cultural practices – both the “content” and the processes by which this content was spread are now important. Roger Chartier describes it as follows:
- This movement [from the intellectual to the cultural/social] implies casting doubt on two ideas: first, that practices can be deduced from the discourses that authorize or justify them; second, that it is possible to translate the terms of an explicit ideology the latent meaning of social mechanisms.
One of the primary elements of the cultural interpretation of the Enlightenment is the rise of the public sphere in Europe. Jürgen Habermas has influenced thinking on the public sphere more than any other, though his model is increasingly called into question. The essential problem that Habermas attempted to answer concerned the conditions necessary for “rational, critical, and genuinely open discussion of public issues”. Or, more simply, the social conditions required for Enlightenment ideas to be spread and discussed. His response was the formation in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the “bourgeois public sphere”, a “realm of communication marked by new arenas of debate, more open and accessible forms of urban public space and sociability, and an explosion of print culture". More specifically, Habermas highlights three essential elements of the public sphere: it was egalitarian; it discussed the domain of "common concern"; argument was founded on reason.
The public institutions of the Enlightenment included Academies, the book industry (scientific literature, journals, newspapers, The Republic of Letters and Grub Street), coffeehouses, debating societies, freemasonic lodges and Salons.
- Robert Darnton and the historiography of the Enlightenment
- Enlightenment historiography
- Important figures of the Enlightenment
- Rationalization (sociology)
- Science in the Age of Enlightenment
- Enlightened absolutism
- Atlantic Revolutions (American Revolution, French Revolution, Latin American Revolutions and others ...)