Laclos and the Dark Side of the Enlightenment

Derek Allan
Australian National University
The conventional view that all Enlightenment thinkers believed that the fruits of Reason could only be beneficial is not necessarily accurate. Laclos, whose celebrated novel "Les Liaisons dangereueses" was published in 1782, provides a perspective on the world of Reason that does not square with that view. Working at the level of individual psychology, Reason in Laclos's novel divides the world into the strong and the weak – more specifically, the astute and the naive. It defines human worth in terms of a capacity to outwit and control others, a capacity that can only be fully expressed by the complete defeat and humiliation of one’s adversary
Keywords reason  laclos  Enlightenment  cruelty
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