Myths of the Enlightenment

Few historical categories are more fatuous than the lumping together of very diverse movements and individuals in the term “Enlightenment”.   Like many bad ideas in reference to History, the idea of The Age of Enlightenment was a product of late nineteenth century historians.  It is an erroneous concept that gives us a very bad misunderstanding of the eighteenth century, and creates out of whole cloth an intellectual movement that existed, in part, only in France, and when applied to other nations gives a completely false impression of the times.  It lumps together technological advancements, philosophical skepticism of religion and various reform movements that usually had little in common.   That the eighteenth century came to a sudden end with the catastrophe of The French Revolution, a monumental event that cast a backward shadow over all that occurred in that century, makes the century hard enough to understand without the self-inflicted wound of “the Enlightenment” that has been visited by most historians on the study of that fascinating, and complex, time.

Published in: on January 7, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Myths of the Enlightenment  
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