THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND COUNTER-ENLIGHTENMENT
Emeritus Professor David Wolfe, physicist
The spectacular success of Newton’s physics led people to believe that scientific logic and rigour could be applied equally to societal problems . Immanuel Kant said that this ‘signalled mankind’s release from immaturity’, and in many ways that was true . There was a liberation from much prejudice and restrictions on human freedom . A stress on the rights of the individual was a unique contribution . But, as with so many things we humans do, there was an over-emphasis in many areas and new, but different, restrictions on much human freedom arose . The Counter-Enlightenment reacted to this and led to the Romantic Movement . This course will discuss some of the philosophical and the scientific issues of the time.
- Newton’s physics and its consequences
- Locke to Diderot
- The great French thinkers and Catherine the Great
- Hume and the British
- The Counter-Enlightenment, Kant to Joseph de Maistre and ‘the crooked timber of humanity’
Berlin, I.1956. The Age of Enlightenment: The Eighteenth Century Philosophers. New York: New American Library
Crowther, J.G. 1935. British Scientists of the Nineteenth Century. London: Kegan, Trench, Trubner & Co.
Ignatieff, M. 1998. Isaiah Berlin: A Life. Chatto and Windus.
Gorbatov, I. 2006. Catherine the Great and the French Philosophers of the Enlightenment. Academica Press.