Enlighten me.
June 23, 2003 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Enlighten me, please.
posted by lysdexic (10 comments total)
Was the wasteland brought about by technological thinking what ultimately led to the Reich and the Holocaust? Sort of. Were there any plausible alternatives? Evidently not.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2003

No Englightment, no Founding Fathers to say We Hold These Truths etc etc.. Odd to fetch in the post-modern dandies, who after all, stand against the fixed bvalues that are viewed as universal by many Enlghtenment figures. That this notion may not be true, though, does not mean that the fundies, stuck in old texts that do not accept change, are the final truth. Given a choice between the Sacred holy books and the thought, writing, idea of the Enlghtment, I'll take the latter.
posted by Postroad at 10:50 AM on June 23, 2003

Good link. I need to move to a town with a real newspaper.
posted by putzface_dickman at 11:52 AM on June 23, 2003

Tolerance, indeed.
posted by divrsional at 12:31 PM on June 23, 2003

Postroad, yeah, I hear ya, except lots of us see this as both-and rather than either-or.

It's possible to have a, well, more enlightened and richer life of faith with broader education and exposure to ideas: Plenty of religions rely on parables and allegory to convey their basic spiritual truths, anyway, and being a person used to critical thinking certainly helps in studying holy writ and weighing theological argument. Indeed, why encourage -- or rather demand -- belief but restrain inquiry? I believe, but I don't want to be a robot believer. Fundamentalism is a straitjacket on the soul.

(looks cautiously over shoulder to make sure nobody's placing kindling around a stake)
posted by alumshubby at 2:24 PM on June 23, 2003

Of course, the irony is that Marxist (for example) critiques of the Enlightenment and What it Hath Wrought owe quite a bit to the Enlightenment's own intellectual toolbox.

Mind you, I buy quite a bit of the critique; but while it's easy to falsely enshrine a bunch of 18th-century European writers & philosophers as holding the keys to the problems facing the Islamic world, it's also easy to forget that ideas evolve (even while the cultures who gab about them continue to act pretty horribly). What I mean is, it does indeed sound both short-sighted AND culturally arrogant to say to the Islamic world "Here's a 200-year-old culture phenomenon we went through. Memorize for a quiz on Friday." And the privileging of technology over the human that characterized much of what we did with our own Big Philosophical Awakening is not a model I'd recommend to anyone.

But... there are also values and habits of mind which many would pin on the "Enlightenment" (at least in the West) which are, for better or worse, all we have as a yardstick for a viable global culture. The persistent investigation into issues of justice and equity for all people on the planet, without reference to a single religion. To name one. So, in that sense, a little (maybe small-e) enlightenment everywhere (including in this country) sounds like a damned fine thing.

(Now that I think about it, on preview I'm more or less retreading alumshubby's comment. But I'll post anyway...)
posted by BT at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2003

Memorize for a quiz on Friday.

[hastily scribbles note for next Friday's quiz at BT's splendiferous blog.]
posted by rory at 2:11 AM on June 24, 2003

Of course, the irony is that Marxist (for example) critiques of the Enlightenment and What it Hath Wrought owe quite a bit to the Enlightenment's own intellectual toolbox.
Indeed one might say that Marxism was (and is) the radical wing of the enlightenment.
Adorno's criticism mentioned in the aricle (which is unfair, having been written at a most charged period, lacks historical perspective ...and I won't get into this at all because it's a long discussion), is that the enlightenment wasn't rationalist enough.
Tariq Ali's "Letter to a young muslim" referred to in the posted article is worth reading. It is a defence of the secular values of the enlightenment in this current context as they pertain to the muslim world.
posted by talos at 3:05 AM on June 24, 2003

Problem with the Enlightenment is that, on the science wing at least, it generates presumptious little nerdistans like the following: Are you one of The Brights? Given this collection of lovelies, would you ever want to be? I'll take techgnosis any day. The writer's point about "the torch of reason setting off conflagrations" is well-taken.
posted by theplayethic at 4:29 AM on June 24, 2003

Alfredo Rocco, the Minister of Justice under Mussolini, wrote a very interesting little pamphlet called "The Political Doctrine of Fascism" in which he says that socialism is merely liberalism extended to its logical end.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2003

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