Introduction: Defining the Enlightenment French philosophes – the ‘high Enlightenment’ Jonathan Israel and Roy Porter: Dutch and English late 17cy scientific revolutions (Spinoza, Locke and Newton) Global nature (voyages of Cook and de Bougainville) Enlightened Absolutism ‘Enlightenment from above’
Robert Darnton ‘Enlightenment from below’
1) The Philosophes Voltaire (1694-1778)
Toleration If a country’s religion is sacred (for every country boasts that it is), a hundred thousand volumes written against it will do it no more harm than [that done] to rock-solid walls by a hundred thousand snowballs. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, as you know! How can a few black letters traced on paper destroy it?
Voltaire, Dialogues between ABC (1768)
Voltaire and religion
Voltaire: not an atheist, but a deist – religion could be rational
L’Encyclopédie Denis Diderot editor from 1751 to 1765 Contributors: Rousseau, d’Holbach and Buffon – 72,000 articles by 300 writers Sold 25,000 copies by 1789
Acquisition of rational, modern knowledge
Diderot and d’Alembert’s Tree of Human Knowledge
Rousseau and the perfectibility of man Born 1712 city state of Geneva Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (1754) The Social Contract (1762)
modern civilization and corruption of man’s innate virtue
Rousseau and the problem of civilization ‘ Noble savage’ in ‘state of nature’ -solitary, free, self-sufficient envy, pride and acquisition of riches Solutions to loss of freedom:
Social contract : ruled by ‘general will’ citizens would be ‘forced to be free’
Rousseau and French Revolution Rousseau reburied in republican Pantheon in Paris Robespierre: ‘the morality which has disappeared in most individuals can be found only in the mass of people and in the general interest’.
Origins of totalitarianism?
2) Enlightened despotism Catherine II of Russia (1762-1796) 1764: church lands secularized 1765: survey of landownership 1767: new code of laws drafted, but not implemented 1775: local government reforms (influence of Montesquieu) Catherine II and Diderot
Genuinely enlightened or merely strategic?
Maria-Theresa and Joseph II of Austria Hungary Maria-Theresa, with chancellors, Haugwitz and Kaunitz, introduced various reforms: Jesuit influence curtailed (1773) Civil and criminal law codified (1766) Joseph II, enlightened not just practical reform: discrimination against Protestants, Greek orthodox removed (1781-3) Some Jewish disabilities (eg. Leibmaut ) removed but had to speak German in public
Legal reforms, influenced by Beccaria: death penalty abolished (1787), tried and failed to emancipate serfs in 1789
Genuinely enlightened? Some monarchs influenced by enlightenment ideas but Trying to curtail rival forms of authority
New forms of administration could be equally barbaric
3) Enlightenment from below? Rational dissent = alliance between unorthodox religion (Protestant nonconformists eg. Unitarians, Muggletonians) and scientific thinking Erasmus Darwin and the Lunar Society in Birmingham (Josiah Wedgewood and James Watt)
America: Benjamin Franklin
The public sphere New forms of sociability: coffee houses, reading societies, political discussion More accessible and open, but how open? Women – salons, masonic lodges Emilie du Châtelet, translator of Newton but Enlightenment often denied women’s capacity to reason
What about the poor and rural population?
The literary underground Darnton – in France explosion in literary population, 1750-1790 = ‘Grub street’ Hostility to literary elite, courtly connections, patronage Wrote scandalous libelles against court, church, monarchy Chipping away at the legitimacy of court of Louis XVI Largely uninterested in philosophy but attracted to Rousseau’s utopianism
Mercier, L’An 2440 (1771)