Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The ideal of enlightenment is the rational explanation of the world in order to control nature. In it, understanding is replaced by the formula.

The problem statements like this is that they merely reflect the prevalent myth (in the sense of widely believed but untrue) about the Enlightenment. The statement is more applicable to 19th c. positvists.

It's like the similar myth that the Renaissance represented a radical break with the "dark ages", not now accepted by experts.  Cf.:

 A central difficulty in understanding this sort of anti-Enlightenment critique is identifying
exactly what is being criticized. It has become increasing apparent in recent scholarship that the European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century is hardly a unified movement. It consists of many different tendencies in several countries, and it covers a variety of disciplines and practices. Although the Enlightenment rejects orthodoxy in religion, eschewing doctrinaire traditions and teachings, it counts among its advocates deists, theists, pantheists, agnostics, and atheists. The Enlightenment is often identified with republican politics and even revolutionary movements, but there was no consensus among its supporters with regard to political systems or world views: monarchists and democrats, nationalists and cosmopolitans, could all lay claim to enlightened opinions. And in the realm of art and aesthetics there was an array of preferences voiced among enlightened thinkers: from the strict adherence to neo-classical style and universal rules, to the advocation of the subjective expression of human emotions. There were enlightenment thinkers whose primary concern was the natural sciences; others focused on theology and philosophy; still others believed in the supreme importance of the human, psychological, and social sciences. It is thus no wonder that Johann Friedrich Zöllner, late in the Enlightenment in 1783, expressed confusion and dismay about the very identity of the movement everyone seemed to know and acknowledge, but no one seemed able to define.


From the general to the particular - a key Enlightenment figure - Diderot, editor of the Encyclopédie (my street named after him, the French do value their culture). Not much narrow rationalism to control nature here:

It may seem unusual for artists to present work in an exhibition under the name of an art critic. But Denis Diderot was no ordinary critic. Diderot is a key French Enlightenment figure, famous as an important theatre critic, novelist and polymath thinker who used the Annual Painting Salons to construct his Philosophy on art and culture. As the first modern art critic, his ideas had a huge impact in the sphere of French culture. His ideas of tableau and mise-en-scene as a theory of `staging' (relevant now not only for painting and theatre but also cinema, photography and video performances) have endured. The notion of sensibility that he developed (introduced the viewer's body into the meaning of a picture), have been taken up by many thinkers since and form the basis of much modern thinking about experience in art.


But of course we'll go on hearing how all those things which Diderot did had to wait for the supposed radical break from narrow rationalism of the Romantic movement.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:37:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You've made Diderot all the more fascinating and entertaining. Excuse me while I open a bottle and toast to his dear memory.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you didn't read it at the time, you might like my diary "Haunted by Philosophers", which has more on Diderot:


Enjoy the bottle - drink to absent atheists :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:22:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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