In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the complete demolition of traditional structures of authority, scientific thought, and belief by the new philosophy and the philosophes, including Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. The Radical Enlightenment played a part in this revolutionary process, which effectively overthrew all justification for monarchy, aristocracy, and ecclesiastical power, as well as man's dominance over woman, theological dominance of education, and slavery. Despite the present day interest in the revolutions (...) of the eighteenth century, the origins and rise of the Radical Enlightenment have received limited scholarly attention. The greatest obstacle to the movement finding its proper place in modern historical writing is its international scope: the Racial Enlightenment was not French, British, German, Italian, Jewish or Dutch, but all of these at the same time. In this wide-ranging volume, Jonathan Israel offers a novel interpretation of the Radical Enlightenment down to La Mettie and Diderot, two of its key exponents. Particular emphasis is placed on the pivotal role of Spinoza and the widespread underground international philosophical movement known before 1750 as Spinozism. (shrink)
The first major reassessment of the Western Enlightenment for a generation. Continuing the story he began in Radical Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel now focuses on the first half of the eighteenth century. He traces to their roots the core principles of Western modernity: the primacy of reason, democracy, racial equality, feminism, religious toleration, sexual emancipation, and freedom of expression.
That the Enlightenment shaped modernity is uncontested. Yet remarkably few historians or philosophers have attempted to trace the process of ideas from the political and social turmoil of the late eighteenth century to the present day. This is precisely what Jonathan Israel now does. In Democratic Enlightenment , Israel demonstrates that the Enlightenment was an essentially revolutionary process, driven by philosophical debate. The American Revolution and its concerns certainly acted as a major factor in the intellectual ferment (...) that shaped the wider upheaval that followed, but the radical philosophes were no less critical than enthusiastic about the American model. From 1789, the General Revolution's impetus came from a small group of philosophe-revolutionnaires , men such as Mirabeau, Sieyes, Condorcet, Volney, Roederer, and Brissot. Not aligned to any of the social groups represented in the French National assembly, they nonetheless forged " la philosophie moderne "--in effect Radical Enlightenment ideas--into a world-transforming ideology that had a lasting impact in Latin America, Canada and eastern Europe as well as France, Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. In addition, Israel argues that while all French revolutionary journals powerfully affirmed that la philosophie moderne was the main cause of the French Revolution, the main stream of historical thought has failed to grasp what this implies. Israel sets the record straight, demonstrating the true nature of the engine that drove the Revolution, and the intimate links between the radical wing of the Enlightenment and the anti-Robespierriste "Revolution of reason." Acclaim for earlier volumes in the trilogy: "His vast--and vastly impressive--book sets out to redefine the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe. Magnificent and magisterialwill undoubtedly be one of the truly great historical works of the decade." -- Sunday Telegraph "The scholarship is breathtaking. Israel has read everything, absorbed every nuance, followed up every byway." -- New Statesman "An enormously impressive piece of scholarship. The breadth and depth of the author's reading are breathtaking and Enlightenment Contested is set to become the definitive work for philosophers as well as historians on this extraordinary period." -- Tribune. (shrink)
In a series of lectures from 1804–05, Johann Gottlieb Fichte sets out a conception of enlightenment whose basic structure is, I argue, to some extent reproduced in two more famous accounts of enlightenment found in post-Kantian German philosophy: Hegel’s account of the Enlightenment’s struggle with faith in his Phenomenology of Spirit and the conception of enlightenment rationality presented in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. The narrative I offer serves to highlight, moreover, the critical role (...) played by the notion of an unconditional good in Fichte’s and Hegel’s critiques of enlightenment. The lack of an explicit appeal to, and account of, this notion in Horkheimer and Adorno’s critique of enlightenment will be shown to raise questions concerning how successful their critique of enlightenment can really be thought to be. (shrink)
In the late eighteenth century, an array of European political thinkers attacked the very foundations of imperialism, arguing passionately that empire-building was not only unworkable, costly, and dangerous, but manifestly unjust. Enlightenment against Empire is the first book devoted to the anti-imperialist political philosophies of an age often regarded as affirming imperial ambitions. Sankar Muthu argues that thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder developed an understanding of humans as inherently cultural agents and therefore necessarily (...) diverse. These thinkers rejected the conception of a culture-free "natural man." They held that moral judgments of superiority or inferiority could be made neither about entire peoples nor about many distinctive cultural institutions and practices.Muthu shows how such arguments enabled the era's anti-imperialists to defend the freedom of non-European peoples to order their own societies. In contrast to those who praise "the Enlightenment" as the triumph of a universal morality and critics who view it as an imperializing ideology that denigrated cultural pluralism, Muthu argues instead that eighteenth-century political thought included multiple Enlightenments. He reveals a distinctive and underappreciated strand of Enlightenment thinking that interweaves commitments to universal moral principles and incommensurable ways of life, and that links the concept of a shared human nature with the idea that humans are fundamentally diverse. Such an intellectual temperament, Muthu contends, can broaden our own perspectives about international justice and the relationship between human unity and diversity. (shrink)
Interpreting the Enlightenment: on methods -- A map of the Enlightenment: whither France? -- The spirit of the moderns: from the new science to the Enlightenment -- Society, the subject of the modern story -- Quarrel in the Academy: the ancients strike back -- Humanism and Enlightenment: the classical style of the philosophes -- The philosophical spirit of the laws: politics and antiquity -- An ancient god: pagans and philosophers -- Post tenebras lux: Begriffsgeschichte or regime (...) d'historicité? -- Ancients and the Orient: translatio imperii -- Enlightened institutions (i): the royal academies versus the Republic of Letters -- Enlightened institutions (ii): universities, censorship, and public instruction -- Worldliness, politeness, and the importance of not being too radical -- From Enlightenment to Revolution: a shared history? -- France and the European Enlightenment -- Modern myths. (shrink)
Dialectic of Enlightenment is undoubtedly the most influential publication of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Written during the Second World War and circulated privately, it appeared in a printed edition in Amsterdam in 1947. "What we had set out to do," the authors write in the Preface, "was nothing less than to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism." Yet the work goes far beyond a mere critique (...) of contemporary events. Historically remote developments, indeed, the birth of Western history and of subjectivity itself out of the struggle against natural forces, as represented in myths, are connected in a wide arch to the most threatening experiences of the present. The book consists in five chapters, at first glance unconnected, together with a number of shorter notes. The various analyses concern such phenomena as the detachment of science from practical life, formalized morality, the manipulative nature of entertainment culture, and a paranoid behavioral structure, expressed in aggressive anti-Semitism, that marks the limits of enlightenment. The authors perceive a common element in these phenomena, the tendency toward self-destruction of the guiding criteria inherent in enlightenment thought from the beginning. Using historical analyses to elucidate the present, they show, against the background of a prehistory of subjectivity, why the National Socialist terror was not an aberration of modern history but was rooted deeply in the fundamental characteristics of Western civilization. Adorno and Horkheimer see the self-destruction of Western reason as grounded in a historical and fateful dialectic between the domination of external nature and society. They trace enlightenment, which split these spheres apart, back to its mythical roots. Enlightenment and myth, therefore, are not irreconcilable opposites, but dialectically mediated qualities of both real and intellectual life. "Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology." This paradox is the fundamental thesis of the book. This new translation, based on the text in the complete edition of the works of Max Horkheimer, contains textual variants, commentary upon them, and an editorial discussion of the position of this work in the development of Critical Theory. (shrink)
This is a description and analysis of the intellectual culture of the eighteenth-century Church of England. Challenging conventional perceptions of the Church as an intellectually moribund institution, the study traces the influence of thinkers such as Locke, Newton, Burke, and Gibbon on theological debate in England during this period.
The West has long had an ambivalent attitude toward the philosophical traditions of the East. Voltaire claimed that the East is the civilization "to which the West owes everything", yet C.S. Peirce was contemptuous of the "monstrous mysticism of the East". And despite the current trend toward globalizations, there is still a reluctance to take seriously the intellectual inheritance of South and East Asia. Oriental Enlightenment challenges this Eurocentric prejudice. J. J. Clarke examines the role played by the ideas (...) of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism in the intellectual life of the West and how these ideas, far more than exotic distractions, or even instruments of colonial domination, have been the means towards serious self-questioning and self-renewal, used to dispute and even to undermine Western orthodoxies. (shrink)
Existing interpretations of Kant’s appeal to the spontaneity of the mind focus almost exclusively on the discussion of pure apperception in the Transcendental Deduction. The risk of such a strategy lies in the considerable degree of abstraction at which the argument of the Deduction is carried out: existing interpretations fail to reconnect adequately with any ground-level perspective on our cognitive lives. This paper works in the opposite direction. Drawing on Kant’s suggestion that the most basic picture we can have of (...) our cognitive capacity already makes reference to its state of excellence, or health (“sound understanding”), I set out by assembling Kant’s normative ground-level view of our cognitive lives, and then search for the fundamental condition of its possibility. This leads me to Kant’s conception of reflection as a normative requirement of judgment. Through examination of Kant’s remarks on reflection, I connect Kant’s preoccupation with the enlightenment ideal of originality (thinking for oneself) with his central appeal to the spontaneity of the mind. (shrink)
The term phenomenology can be used in a generic sense to cover a variety of areas related to the problem of consciousness. In this sense it is a title that ranges over issues pertaining to first-person or subjective experience, qualia, and what has become known as "the hard problem" (Chalmers 1995). The term is sometimes used even more generally to signify a variety of approaches to studying such issues, including contemplative, meditative, and mystical studies, and transpersonal psychology.(1) Within the disciplines (...) of philosophy and psychology, however, phenomenology has a more specialized meaning. In this case it refers to the methodology and philosophy initiated by the philosopher Edmund Husserl at the beginning of the twentieth-century and developed in various ways by theorists such as Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Schutz. I restrict the scope of this review to phenomenology in this more specialized sense. In the light of several recent publications, the general questions I address are: What is and what ought to be the relationship between phenomenology and cognitive science? and What, if any, recent contributions has phenomenology made to the science of consciousness? (shrink)
Issues relating to diversity and pluralism continue to permeate both social and political discourse. Of particular contemporary importance and relevance are those issues raised when the demands associated with forms of pluralism clash with those of the liberal state. These forms of pluralism can be divided into two subcategories: thin and thick pluralism. Thin pluralism refers to forms of pluralism that can be accommodated by the existing liberal framework, whereas thick pluralism challenges this liberal framework. -/- This thesis is an (...) examination of four forms of political association that may be able to accommodate and support the demands of pluralism. These four models are Rawls’ political liberalism, Crowder’s value pluralism, Rorty’s post-foundational liberalism, and Mouffe’s radical democratic project. What unites these four forms of political association is their capacity to avoid the exclusionary effects of a form of liberalism that I, following Gaus, refer to as Enlightenment liberalism. As the name suggests, this conception of liberalism is anchored in the Enlightenment, and in particular with what may be considered as the Enlightenment view of reason. As such, therefore, Enlightenment liberalism is both universal and perfectionist. In this context, I argue that Enlightenment liberalism is a species of what Berlin refers to as ‘moral monism’. -/- These four forms of political association are ordered in such a way as to chart an intellectual trajectory. Rawls and Crowder are both situated firmly within the liberal tradition, whereas Rorty and Mouffe move beyond this, and embrace a form of post-foundational politics. It is in this trajectory that the second theme of this thesis emerges. This is centred on a paradox: in order to avoid the exclusionary effect of Enlightenment liberalism and embrace a form of political association that meets the demands of pluralism and diversity, the models examined still promote autonomy as the dominant virtue. (shrink)
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the nature of the universe and about ourselves and other living things as a part of the universe, and learning how to become civilized or enlightened. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. But the second problem has not yet been solved. Solving the first problem without also solving the second puts us in a situation of great danger. All our current (...) global problems have arisen as a result. What we need to do, in response to this unprecedented crisis, is learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second one. This was the basic idea of the 18th century Enlightenment. Unfortunately, in carrying out this programme, the Enlightenment made three blunders, and it is this defective version of the Enlightenment programme, inherited from the past, that is still built into the institutional/intellectual structure of academic inquiry in the 21st century. In order to solve the second great problem of learning we need to correct the three blunders of the traditional Enlightenment. This involves changing the nature of social inquiry, so that social science becomes social methodology or social philosophy, concerned to help us build into social life the progress-achieving methods of aim-oriented rationality, arrived at by generalizing the progress-achieving methods of science. It also involves, more generally, bringing about a revolution in the nature of academic inquiry as a whole, so that it takes up its proper task of helping humanity learn how to become wiser by increasingly cooperatively rational means. The scientific task of improving knowledge and understanding of nature becomes a part of the broader task of improving global wisdom. The outcome would be what we so urgently need: a kind of inquiry rationally designed and devoted to helping us make progress towards a genuinely civilized world. We would succeed in doing what the Enlightenment tried but failed to do: learn from scientific progress how to go about making social progress towards as good a world as possible. (shrink)
This new book by Michael Slote argues that Western philosophy on the whole has overemphasized rational control and autonomy at the expense of the important countervailing value and virtue of receptivity. Recently the ideas of caring and empathy have received a great deal of philosophical and public attention, but both these notions rest on the deeper and broader value of receptivity, and in From Enlightenment to Receptivity, Slote seeks to show that we need to focus more on receptivity if (...) we are to attain a more balanced sense and understanding of what is important to us. -/- Beginning with a critique of Enlightenment thinking that calls into question its denial of any central role to considerations of emotion and empathy, he goes on to show how a greater emphasis on these factors and on the receptivity that underlies them can give us a more realistic, balanced, and sensitive understanding of our core ethical and epistemological values. This means rejecting post-modernism's blanket rejection of reason and of compelling real values and recognizing, rather, that receptivity should play a major role in how we lead our lives as individuals, in how we relate to nature, in how we acquire knowledge about the world, and in how we relate morally and politically with others. (shrink)
Kant believed that true enlightenment is the use of reason freely in public. This book systematicaaly traces the philosophical origins and development of the idea that the improvement of human understanding requires public activity. Michael Losonsky focuses on seventeenth-century discussions of the problem of irresolution and the closely connected theme of the role of volition in human belief formation. This involves a discussion of the work of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza and Leibniz. Challenging the traditional views of seventeenth-century philosophy (...) and written in a lucid, non-technical language, this book will be eagerly sought out by historians of philosophy and students of the history of ideas. (shrink)
The Enlightenment has often been written about as a sequence of disembodied 'great ideas'. The aim of this book is to put the beliefs of the Enlightenment firmly into their social context, by revealing the national soils in which they were rooted and the specific purposes for which they were used. It brings out the regional divergences of the Enlightenment experience, shaped by different local intellectual and economic priorities. At the same time it also shows how central (...) concerns were shared everywhere, and how the writings of certain key areas came to be influential elsewhere. The thirteen essays, each written by a historian specialising in the particular country, examine national contexts from Sweden to Italy, from Russia to North America. As well as focusing attention on the interplay of thought and action, ideology and society, the book offers important insights into the place of the intelligentsia in the modern world. (shrink)
Despite his well-recognized importance in the history of thought, Lessing as theologian or philosopher of religion remains an enigmatic figure. Through intensive study of the entire corpus of Lessing's philosophical and theological writings, as well as the extensive secondary literature, Yasukata reveals a fresh image of Lessing as a creative, modern mind who is both shaped by and gives shape to the Christian heritage.
Genevieve Lloyd presents a new study of the place of Enlightenment thought in intellectual history and of its continued relevance. She offers original readings of a range of key texts, which highlight the ways in which Enlightenment thinkers enacted in their writing--and reflected on--the interplay of intellect, imagination, and emotion.
Covering the "long" Enlightenment, from the rise of Descartes' disciples in 1670 to the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815, the Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment contains articles ranging from discussions of mercantilism and democracy to the dissemination of ideas in salons and coffeehouses. It is also an e-reference text from Oxford's Digital Reference Shelf.
Buddhist philosophy asserts that human suffering is caused by ignorance regarding the true nature of reality. According to this, perceptions and thoughts are largely fabrications of our own minds, based on conditioned tendencies which often involve problematic fears, aversions, compulsions, etc. In Buddhist psychology, these tendencies reside in a portion of mind known as Store consciousness. Here, I suggest a correspondence between this Buddhist Store consciousness and the neuroscientific idea of stored synaptic weights. These weights are strong synaptic connections built (...) in through experience. Buddhist philosophy claims that humans can find relief from suffering through a process in which the Store consciousness is transformed. Here, I argue that this Buddhist 'transformation at the base' corresponds to a loosening of the learned synaptic connections. I will argue that Buddhist meditation practices create conditions in the brain which are optimal for diminishing the strength of our conditioned perceptual and behavioural tendencies. (shrink)
Where much contemporary philosophy seeks to stave off the "threat" of nihilism by safeguarding the experience of meaning--characterized as the defining feature of human existence--from the Enlightenment logic of disenchantment, this book attempts to push nihilism to its ultimate conclusion by forging a link between revisionary naturalism in Anglo-American philosophy and anti-phenomenological realism in recent French philosophy. Contrary to an emerging "post-analytic" consensus which would bridge the analytic-continental divide by uniting Heidegger and Wittgenstein against the twin perils of scientism (...) and skepticism, this book short-circuits both traditions by plugging eliminative materialism directly into speculative realism. (shrink)
This essay reevaluates the Weimar writings of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, specifically, their intellectual efforts to replace the political authority of Kantian liberalism with, respectively, a ‘political theology’ and ‘Biblical atheism’ derived from the thought of early-modern state theorists like Hobbes and Spinoza. Schmitt and Strauss each insisted that post-Kantian Enlightenment rationality was unraveling into a way of thinking that violently rejected ‘form’ of any kind, fixated myopically on material things and lacked any conception of the external constraints (...) that invariably condition the possibilities of philosophy, morality and politics. They considered Kantian reason and liberal politics to pose serious threats to ‘genuine’ expressions of rationality and as dangerous obfuscations of the necessity of political order—of the brute fact that human beings stand in need of ‘being ruled,’ as such. (shrink)
This article explores the recent reception of the German Idealist tradition within the English-speaking philosophical world. Texts by four authors—Fredrick Beiser, Richard Velkley, Dennis Schmidt, and Gregg Horowitz—are examined as to their respective participation in what I call a materialist appropriation of German Idealism. In this article, I explore what the term ‘materialism’ means in this context and the reasons for such a new interpretation. I hold that this interpretation is utilized as a response to the Enlightenment priority of (...) universalizing abstraction. Further, I hold that such an interpretation amounts to a reclaiming of German Idealism from previous interpretations which viewed it as supporting this priority. (shrink)
My goal here is to come to terms with the Enlightenment as the horizon of critical social science. First, I consider in more detail the understanding of the Enlightenment in Critical Theory, particularly in its conception of the sociality of reason. Second, I develop an account of freedom in terms of human powers, along the lines of recent capability conceptions that link freedom to the development of human powers, including the power to interpret and create norms. Finally, I (...) show the ways in which the social sciences can be moral sciences in the Enlightenment sense. This account provides us with a coherent Enlightenment standard by which to judge institutions as promoting development, understood in terms of the capabilities necessary for freedom. The relevant social science in this area might include the robust generalization that there has never been a famine in a democratic society. (shrink)
The first part of this book provides the best short overview of the German Enlightenment available in English. Although, as the author says, she “sheds no new light on the German Enlightenment but follows current views”, those views are largely unavailable in English. With admirable lucidity, Roehr covers topics such as the nature of enlightenment, theology, Freemasonry, responses to the French revolution, and moral philosophy.
Accounts of creation in Sanskrit literature include a number of hymns in the R̥gveda principal among which are R̥V 10.72, 10.81–82, 10.90, 10.121, and 10.129. Later accounts appear in the Mānavadhārmaśāstra, the Mahābhārata, and purāṇas. Scholars generally describe these accounts as various, mutually inconsistent myths, or as superseded stages of philosophical thought. Even recent treatments of Indian cosmogony that praise the poetic subtlety and prowess of their composers consider their work as products of individual poetic imagination. Yet, despite the variety (...) of expression in the various accounts, they appear to convey a consistent model of the origin of the world. Moreover, the model of the absolute and the first stages of creation mirror the descriptions of the development of enlightenment in foundational texts of Vedānta and systematic analyses of Yoga. The descriptions of creation may therefore rather be the result of the special insight of enlightened sages than the results of individual imagination. (shrink)
The Enlightenment was the age in which the world became modern, challenging tradition in favor of reason, freedom, and critical inquiry. While many aspects of the Enlightenment have been rigorously scrutinized—its origins and motivations, its principal characters and defining features, its legacy and modern relevance—the geographical dimensions of the era have until now largely been ignored. Placing the Enlightenment contends that the Age of Reason was not only a period of pioneering geographical investigation but also an age (...) with spatial dimensions to its content and concerns. Investigating the role space and location played in the creation and reception of Enlightenment ideas, Charles W. J. Withers draws from the fields of art, science, history, geography, politics, and religion to explore the legacies of Enlightenment national identity, navigation, discovery, and knowledge. Ultimately, geography is revealed to be the source of much of the raw material from which philosophers fashioned theories of the human condition. Lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, Placing the Enlightenment will interest Enlightenment specialists from across the disciplines as well as any scholar curious about the role geography has played in the making of the modern world. (shrink)
The prominence of Bayesian modeling of cognition has increased recently largely because of mathematical advances in specifying and deriving predictions from complex probabilistic models. Much of this research aims to demonstrate that cognitive behavior can be explained from rational principles alone, without recourse to psychological or neurological processes and representations. We note commonalities between this rational approach and other movements in psychology that set aside mechanistic explanations or make use of optimality assumptions. Through these comparisons, we identify a number of (...) challenges that limit the rational program's potential contribution to psychological theory. Specifically, rational Bayesian models are significantly unconstrained, both because they are uninformed by a wide range of process-level data and because their assumptions about the environment are generally not grounded in empirical measurement. The psychological implications of most Bayesian models are also unclear. Bayesian inference itself is conceptually trivial, but strong assumptions are often embedded in the hypothesis sets and the approximation algorithms used to derive model predictions, without a clear delineation between psychological commitments and implementational details. Comparing multiple Bayesian models of the same task is rare, as is the realization that many Bayesian models recapitulate existing (mechanistic level) theories. Despite the expressive power of current Bayesian models, we argue they must be developed in conjunction with mechanistic considerations to offer substantive explanations of cognition. We lay out several means for such an integration, which take into account the representations on which Bayesian inference operates, as well as the algorithms and heuristics that carry it out. We argue this unification will better facilitate lasting contributions to psychological theory, avoiding the pitfalls that have plagued previous theoretical movements. (shrink)
Kant’s main concern in his famous essay on enlightenment is the relation between enlightenment and the political order. His account of this relation turns on the idea of the freedom of public reason. This paper develops a new interpretation of Kant’s concept of public reason. First, it argues that Kant conceives of public reasoning as a matter of speaking in one’s own name to the commonwealth of the public. Second, it draws on Kant’s republican conception of freedom in (...) order to develop an account of the grounds of the freedom of public reason. It argues that the state’s duty with respect to public reason is an aspect of its duty to protect the independence of citizens. Contrary to what is commonly thought, this duty is not an obligation to refrain from interfering in the sphere of public reason. The state may have a positive, though limited, role to play in enlightenment. (shrink)
Jonathan Edwards has most often been considered in the context of the Puritanism of New England. However, in many ways he was closer to the thinkers of the European Enlightenment. Leon Chai explores the connection, analysing Edwards's thought in light of a number of the issues that preoccupied such Enlightenment figures as Locke, Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz.
For different reasons, and with different political goals at stake, the fundamental principles advocated by the Enlightenment are being challenged by both the left and the right. This entry sets out to clear a critical space for examining what is at stake in the present in interrogating its legacy as discourse for imagining alternative transmodern and transcolonial futures. A re-evaluation of the Enlightenment by reference to concepts of equality, liberty, emancipation, justice and becoming is central to that task.
There were two prevailing sentiments in Europe after the Reformation: One opposing papal authority and one advocating individual freedom. This paper analyzes these two sentiments and finds that the concept of conscience is crucial in understanding them. The issue of conscience is about judging truth and good, and in initiating the Reformation, Martin Luther heavily appealed to his conscience while countering Catholic attacks. With the wide dispersal of the Reformation, Luther’s notion of conscience was well received among his supporters throughout (...) Europe. Descartes later transformed Luther’s conscience into an epistemological being (the cogito ), and argued that its existence was the only valid thing that survived his thorough skepticism — and as such is the foundation of human knowledge. Rousseau continued this line of thinking, which we call subjectivism, and re-employed the term conscience as a replacement for cogito , holding that conscience is the final authority in judging good and bad; that, as the starting point of human existence, it cannot be withheld from any human being; and that it therefore constitutes an inalienable human right. This paper argues that the Enlightenment was a subjectivist movement propelled by this conscience- cogito -conscience conceptualization, and that it sought to enlighten this inalienable conscience. (shrink)