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understanding the intellectual history of the enlightenment

101. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Wojciech Starzyński

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The aim of this article is to discuss the reflection on the history of philosophy conceived as a cycle of enlightenments in the thought of Kazimierz Twardowski. In 1895 Twardowski adopts Franz Brentano’s model of the cyclical character of the history of philosophy. In the cycle of modern philosophy, the traditional Enlightenment period of the 18th century is shown critically as the one in which the original forces of the scientific revolution of the 17th century weakened, while the philosophy of the beginning of modernity is to be seen as the proper Enlightenment. Critical reflections are crowned with a sharp critique of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy which is supposed to be responsible for a further weakening, or even degeneration, of 19th century philosophy. Twardowski when lecturing on the history of modern philosophy in Lvow in 1896–1923, softened the four-phase conception of the modern cycle as well as the key role played by Kant’s thought. But in 1904, in the context of the motto of the “return to Kant” and the formation of the Polish Philosophical Society, Twardowski delivered an important speech in which the figure of Kant was instrumentalized for the purposes of what we may call the third modern enlightenment, this time taking place in Polish philosophy.
102. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Alexandra Cook

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Steven Pinker’s recent Enlightenment Now (2018) aside, Enlightenment values have been in for a rough ride of late. Following Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s critique of Enlightenment as the source of fascism, recent studies, amplified by Black Lives Matter, have laid bare the ugly economic underbelly of Enlightenment. The prosperity that enabled intellectuals to scrutinize speculative truths in eighteenth-century Paris salons relied on the slave trade and surplus value extracted from slave labor on sugar plantations and in other areas Europeans controlled. Indeed, deprived of its ugly economic underbelly, Enlightenment was barely conceivable; furthermore, its reliance on surplus value extraction from oppressed labor was accompanied by a racism that, with the exception of the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and a few other thinkers, was arguably inherent to Enlightenment. However, I am not proposing yet another revelation of Enlightenment’s complicity in exploitation of, or disregard for, the Other. Rather, I want to highlight the damage being done today by an insidious strategy of labelling as “pseudo-science” entire domains of non-Western knowledge such as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, thereby rendering them no-go zones for serious minds. Even though the term pseudo-science had yet to be coined, the beginnings of this tendency are already evident in Enlightenment-era works such as Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s Description … de la Chine (1735). The perpetuation of this dismissive treatment of non-Western natural knowledge creates a significant obstacle to superseding a “scientific revolution” whose confines have long been burst: it is increasingly recognized that traditional/indigenous knowledge affords a vast reservoir of materials, skills and insights of which the world has desperate need, no more urgently than in response to the covid-19 pandemic.
103. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Alexandra Cook

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pointing the way toward a new enlightenment: undiscovered treasures and eastern directions

104. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Paul Lodge

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This paper is a new translation and interpretation of the essay by Leibniz which has come to be known as “Leibniz’s Philosophical Dream.” Leibniz used many different literary styles throughout his career, but “Leibniz’s Philosophical Dream” is unique insofar as it combines apparent autobiography with a dreamscape. The content is also somewhat surprising. The essay is reminiscent of Plato, insofar as Leibniz describes a transition from existence in a cave to a more enlightened mode of being outside of it. But, in contrast with the usual identification of Leibniz as a “rationalist,” the mode of being that is valorised involves cognition that is intuitive and supra-rational. The paper begins with the translation followed by an interpretation of the essay. I conclude by considering the ramifications of my interpretation for our conception of Leibniz’s philosophy.
105. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Tanishe Otabe

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Western Enlightenment ideas had already been introduced to Edo-period Japan in the early nineteenth century. However, it was not until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 that the modern Japanese Enlightenment movement really took off, when Japan left the sinocentric sphere and adopted Western civilization as its frame of reference. In this paper, I focus on two contrasting thinkers: Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835–1901) and Kakuzô Okakura (pseudonym: Tenshin) (1863–1913). Fukuzawa, one of the leading thinkers of the Japanese Enlightenment, internalized the Eurocentric view of the history of civilization as a norm and made a significant contribution to the Westernization of Japan. In contrast, in the face of the oncoming modernization, or Westernization, Okakura sought on the one hand to revive the ideals of the East, which were in danger of being forgotten, and on the other hand, to relativize Western modernity itself. He thus reveals the possibility of another Enlightenment.
106. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Monique Whitaker

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John Searle roundly rejects what he calls the Bad Argument: a long-standing equivocation in philosophy over the contents and the objects of perception. But, as Josh Armstrong points out, this insight is not unique to Searle. By the late 19th Century the equivocation had been observed by Franz Brentano and students of his, such as Alexius Meinong and Kazimierz Twardowski, and was highlighted too in the 20th century by G. E. M. Anscombe. What Armstrong does take to be a novel to Searle is his use of this observation to undermine some of the primary objections to a realist theory of perception. In fact, though, it had already been put to much the same use by Mary Shepherd in her 1827 book Essays on the Perception of an External Universe and Other Subjects Connected with the Doctrine of Causation. Shepherd not only argues that the equivocal use of the term “things we perceive” is a crucial flaw in Berkeley’s case for Idealism, but also goes on to use this in service of her own, largely realist, theory of perception.
107. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1
Michael Slote

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Total permissiveness can be captured by the phrase “anything goes.” Psychological atomism can be informally characterized by the idea that in the mind anything goes with anything. There is a strong tendency toward such thinking in Western philosophical thought—both in classical antiquity and during and since the Enlightenment. Perhaps the two most important philosophers of the Enlightenment, Hume and Kant, accepted more or less limited forms of atomism, and I shall explain in what follows in the main text and footnotes, why and how I think their atomism goes astray. Since much of Western philosophy since the Enlightenment to some extent bears its imprint, we shall also be seeing some recent examples of ill-conceived atomism. However, and despite the main themes of the present volume, I shall go well beyond the task of dealing with themes in Enlightenment thinking. In fact, I shall be relying on some unfamiliar aspects of Chinese thought to correct quite generally what I take to be erroneous atomistic thinking.

108. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Robert Elliott Allinson

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1. female emancipation

109. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Debra Berghoffen

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This paper examines the ways that feminists have built on and transformed Mary Wollstonecraft’s Enlightenment idea that women’s rights are human rights. It argues that Wollstonecraft’s marginal attention to the issue of sexual violence reflects the mind-body dualism of her era where reason divorced from the body established our dignity as persons. Today’s feminists reject this dualism. They have adopted and retooled Wollstonecraft’s idea that women’s rights are human rights to (1) create solidarity among women of different places, races, classes, religions etc., (2) break the silence surrounding the experience and meaning of rape, and (3) create grassroots, national and international forums that expose the fact that sexual violence is one of the crucial anchors of patriarchy. Wollstonecraft believed that human rights were guaranteed by reason and God. We find that these rights are embodied and fragile. They depend on us to make them real. Addressing this responsibility, the paper ends with a question: Are we up to the task?
110. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Karen Green

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Can Catharine Macaulay’s enlightenment democratic republicanism be justified from the point of view of contemporary naturalism? Naturalist accounts of political authority tend to be realist and pessimistic, foreclosing the possibility of enlightenment. Macaulay’s utopian political philosophy relies on belief in a good God, whose existence underpins the possibility of moral and political progress. This paper attempts a restoration of her optimistic utopianism in a reconciliation, grounded in a revision of natural law, of naturalist and utopian attitudes to political theory. It is proposed that the coevolution of language, moral law, and conscience (the disposition to judge one’s own actions in the light of moral principles) can be explained as solutions to the kinds of tragedy of the commons situations facing our ancestors. Moral dispositions evolved, but, in the light of its function, law is subject to rational critique. Liberal democracy plausibly offers the best prospect for developing rationally justifiable law.
111. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Odile Richard

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This study deals with the contemporary relevance of Diderot’s ideas in matters of education. Neither a treatise nor an essay, Diderot’s practical observations are scattered throughout his letter correspondence and his fictional novels. According to our enquiry, the more physiological aspects are dealt with in the Encyclopedia. We will see that Diderot’s position is unconventional but does not necessarily follow in Rousseau’s wake. He rather tries to reach a fair balance between freedom and duty, focusing on women and sexual emancipation.

2. the non-european enlightenment

112. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Xing Guozhong, Shang Chen

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Chinese Confucianism, which emerged during the Axial Age, has had a profound influence on many intellectual and cultural movements in history, including the European Enlightenment. This article analyzes the influence of Confucianism on the European Enlightenment from four perspectives: human rights, a benevolent government, religion and nature. The humanist spirit propagated by Confucianism was similar to the views expressed by Enlightenment thinkers on reason and human rights and provided a powerful ideological weapon for Enlightenment thinkers to criticize religious theocracy and break through the darkness of the Middle Ages. During this process of learning and absorbing the humanist spirit of Confucianism, French Enlightenment thinkers developed the rational and critical spirit of the Enlightenment and paved the way for intellectual liberation. Today, the world is facing the new challenges of global climate change, artificial intelligence and genetic technology. In the context of these global problems, China and the West can learn from each other and join efforts to gather new ideological resources to carry out a new ideological enlightenment movement on a global scale and achieve sustainable development for all humanity.
113. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
David Chai

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Having reached its zenith in the Song dynasty, Chinese landscape painting in the dynasties that followed became highly formulaic as artists simply copied the old masters to perfect their skills. This orthodox approach was not accepted by everyone however; some painters criticized it, arguing it was better to learn the ideas behind the techniques of the old masters than to blindly copy them. Shitao was one such critic and his Manual on Painting exemplifies his desire to disassociate himself from the classical approach to painting. This paper will investigate the three major themes of Shitao’s text—the holistic brushstroke, brush and ink, and the method of no-method—in order to show how they shaped his view of landscape painting and how said paintings subsequently embodied them. Unlike the near-scientific approach taken by his contemporaries and predecessors, Shitao paints to capture the unifying simplicity of nature, an onto-aesthetic experience that is profoundly enlightening.
114. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Dag Herbjørnsrud

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This paper will contend that we, in the first quarter of the 21st century, need an enhanced Age of Reason based on global epistemology. One reason to legitimize such a call for more intellectual enlightenment is the lack of required information on non-European philosophy in today’s reading lists at European and North American universities. Hence, the present-day Academy contributes to the scarcity of knowledge about the world’s global history of ideas outside one’s ethnocentric sphere. The question is whether we genuinely want to rethink parts of the “Colonial Canon” and its main narratives of the past. This article argues that we, if we truly desire, might create “a better Enlightenment.” Firstly, by raising the general knowledge level concerning the philosophies of the Global South. Thus, this text includes examples from the global enlightenments in China, Mughal India, Arabic-writing countries, and Indigenous North America—all preceding and influencing the European Enlightenment. Secondly, we can rebuild by rediscovering the Enlightenment ideals within the historiography of the “hidden enlightenment” of Europe’s and North America’s past. In Part I, of two parts of this paper, a comparative methodology will be outlined. In addition, examples will be given from the history of ideas in India and China to argue that we need to study how these regions influenced the European history of ideas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Finally, towards the end of this text, a re-reading of the contributions from Egypt and Greece aspires to give a more global and complex context for Western Europe’s so-called Age of Reason.
115. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Dag Herbjørnsrud

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The Age of Enlightenment is more global and complex than the standard Eurocentric Colonial Canon narrative presents. For example, before the advent of unscientific racism and the systematic negligence of the contributions of Others outside of “White Europe,” Raphael centered Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in his Vatican fresco “Causarum Cognitio” (1511); the astronomer Edmund Halley taught himself Arabic to be more enlightened; The Royal Society of London acknowledged the scientific method developed by Ibn Al-Haytham (Alhazen). In addition, if we study the Transatlantic texts of the late 18th century, it is not Kant, but instead enlightened thinkers like Anton Wilhelm Amo (born in present-day’s Ghana), Phillis Wheatley (Senegal region), and Toussaint L’Ouverture (Haiti), who mostly live up to the ideals of reason, humanism, universalism, and human rights. One obstacle to developing a more balanced presentation of the Age of the Enlightenment is the influence of colonialism, Eurocentrism, and methodological nationalism. Consequently, this paper, part II of two, will also deal with the European Enlightenment’s unscientific heritage of scholarly racism from the 1750s. It will be demonstrated how Linnaeus, Hume, Kant, and Hegel were among the Founding Fathers of intellectual white supremacy within the Academy. Hence, the Age of Enlightenment is not what we are taught to believe. This paper will demonstrate how the lights from different “Global Enlightenments” can illuminate paths forward to more dialogue and universalism in the 21st century.
116. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Selusi Ambrogio

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It is usually acknowledged that the core contribution of the Enlightenment is primarily twofold: the first being the introduction of reason and science as judgmental principles, and the second being the belief in the future progress of humankind as a shared destiny for humanity. This ‘modern’ reason—an exclusively human prerogative among creatures—could be applied to create a better society from the political, civil, educational, scientific, and religious points of view. What is usually less known is that for most of the Enlightenment thinkers, this philosophical and cultural step was the prerogative of European or Western-educated thinkers, which implied a gradual exclusion of extra-European civilizations from human progress as a natural phenomenon. Thus, with the exception of a few French libertines, the creation of a better society was due to reason and critical thinking absent in other civilizations, who could, at most, inherit this ‘rational power’ from Western education. This exclusion, which is usually attributed to the violence of the colonialist period, is already implied in the arguments of several Enlightenment thinkers. Our investigation will follow three steps: an exposition of the three Western historical paradigms in which Eastern civilizations were inserted between the 17th and 18th century; a comparison between the attitude toward China and Buddhism of two very distant philosophers of the Enlightenment—i.e. Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) and Johann Jacob Brucker (1696–1770)—and a brief reflection on the Enlightenment from an ‘external/exotic’ point of view that will suggest the necessity of a ‘new skeptical Enlightenment’ for inducing actual intercultural dialogue.
117. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Alexander Cook

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The French Revolution had a complex relationship with historical thought. In a significant sense, the politics of 1789 was built upon a rejection of the authority of the past. As old institutions and practices were swept away, many champions of the Revolution attacked conventional historical modes for legitimating authority, seeking to replace them with a politics anchored in notions of reason, natural law and natural rights. Yet history was not so easily purged from politics. In practice, symbols and images borrowed from the past saturated Revolutionary culture. The factional disputes of the 1790s, too, invoked history in a range of ways. The politics of nature itself often relied on a range of historical propositions and, as the Revolution developed, a new battle between “ancients” and ‘moderns’ gradually emerged amongst those seeking to direct the future of France. This article explores these issues by focusing on a series of lectures delivered at the École Normale in the Year III (1795), in the wake of Thermidor and the fall of Robespierre. The lectures, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, were designed to lay out a program for historical pedagogy in the French Republic. Their author, Constantin-Francois Volney (1757–1820), was one of a group of figures who sought, during these years, to stabilise French politics by tying it to the development of a new form of social science—a science that would eventually be labelled “idéologie.” With this in mind, Volney sought to promote historical study as an antidote to the political appropriation of the past, with particular reference to its recent uses in France. In doing so, he also sought to appropriate the past for political purposes. These lectures illustrate a series of tensions in the wider Revolutionary relationship with history, particularly during the Thermidorian moment. They also, however, reflect ongoing ambiguities in the social role of the discipline and the self-understanding of its practitioners.
118. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Meng Zhang

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This paper aims to redeem part of the Enlightenment project through a critical appreciation of David Hume’s practical philosophy. It argues that Hume’s practical philosophy, if interpreted correctly, is immune to two major charges leveled against the Enlightenment in critical theories and in philosophical ethics, respectively. One trend is represented by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, who claim that inherent to the advocacy of rationality typical of the Enlightenment is the irrational adoration of instrumental reason, which obliterates individual particularity, commodifies human relationships, and oppresses the human urge to express passionately. The other trend is represented by Alasdair McIntyre, who claims that the Enlightenment project is doomed to fail because it ventures to justify a historically and culturally conditioned morality as universal. Against the first critique, I argue that Hume’s reliance on the affective tendencies to derive a standard of moral values avoids the idolatry of rationality. Against the second critique, I argue that Hume’s characterization of virtues as qualities of personality that facilitate interpersonal relationships allows ample room for the cultural variance of values.

3. reason and religion

119. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Anna Tomaszewska

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In recent publications on the Enlightenment, Baruch Spinoza is often associated with the radical “fringe,” advocating against Christianity and giving rise to the incipient process of secularization. In this paper, it is argued that we should look for Spinoza’s influence on the Enlightenment in his ideas inspiring heterodox theologians: radical reformers aiming to “rationalize” revelation but not to dismiss it altogether. Several cases of such thinkers are adduced and shortly discussed: Jarig Jelles, Johan Christian Edelmann, Carl Friedrich Bahrdt and Immanuel Kant. Finally, three ways of conceptualizing the relation between Enlightenment and religion are sketched to address the question whether the sources of secularization can indeed be traced back to the Enlightenment.
120. Dialogue and Universalism: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3
Brian Klug

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Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s “dramatic poem” Nathan the Wise (1779) stood out at the time because it showed a Jew, Nathan, in a good light—a better light than the average Christian. Nathan is presented as a figure of wisdom largely on account of his approach to religious difference, especially among the religions represented by the three main protagonists: the Sultan Saladin (Islam), the Knight Templar (Christianity) and Nathan himself (Judaism). In the context of the conflicts of early modern Europe, his message—on the nature of religious difference and the need for toleration—might well seem to earn him the epithet “wise.” This message, which is also the message of the play as a whole, is reinforced by the fact that it is a Jew who delivers it. But, on closer examination, is he the person that at first sight he appears to be? Furthermore, if he were teleported to the here and now, would his take on difference and toleration have enough heft? The essay interrogates the figure of Nathan and answers both questions in the negative. It argues that we need a new Nathan for our globalised, post-colonial, post-Shoah world: a Nathan who is wise in a different fashion.