Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-zlj4b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-25T15:23:44.475Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2019

Warren Breckman
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
Peter E. Gordon
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
Get access

Summary

It is something of a truism that each age must work through the legacy of its predecessors. In the case of the nineteenth century, this obvious statement gains poignancy when one considers the novel challenges and possibilities of the eighteenth century, which was, after all, the age of the Enlightenment. In its many guises and national variations, the Enlightenment asserted provocative and epoch-making claims about the role of reason, science, and criticism vis-à-vis the traditional authority of religion, state, and received knowledge. It drew new roadmaps for the conscious and reflexive reform of society and the betterment of people. At its core, it articulated a new emancipatory project – at once philosophical and political – chiefly oriented toward the ideal of individual autonomy. The cultural, social, and political configuration that shaped the Enlightenment came to something of an end in the closing decade of the eighteenth century, partly through processes of internal critique but also, spectacularly, through the political collapse of the Old Regime. In the changed circumstances of the early nineteenth century, the Enlightenment fragmented into a multitude of contests over the meaning of its legacy. What is the status of reason, and what is its proper relationship to other modes of knowledge? What of religion? What is the key discipline or cultural form that will, depending on one’s perspective and priority, advance, hinder, or deepen the impulses of enlightenment? What are the promises and perils of the project of emancipation, and how might it be continued, radicalized, or restrained? Are there limits to the pursuit of individual autonomy? What is the proper relation between the past and the future, tradition and innovation? None of these questions admitted definitive answers, but they fueled creative efforts, debate, and conflict across a great range of intellectual and cultural pursuits.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×