Volume 31, Issue 2, 2021
Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the 21st Century?
Understanding the Virtues of Enlightenment Epistemology
The paper tries to demonstrate the hypothesis that the Enlightenment epistemology is the unity of the constructivist theory of knowledge—that developed the transcendental conditions of knowing—and the ethical maximalism of the categorical imperative. Actually, the ethical maximalism was conceived of and is conceivable only in tandem with and as a result of the epistemological constructivism that alone enables the responsibility without which the ethical stakes remain an exterior normative speculation. The unity supported the development of the concept of critique as autonomous use of reason, of education of the critical spirit, and of public presence of critiques. Surveying Kant’s What is Enlightenment and Contest of Faculties, the concepts and the logic related to the critical spirit are described, as well as their interpretations mainly by Foucault. The radical character of Enlightenment is given not by its liberal political theories but just by the above mentioned unity. With Enlightenment, criticism became more than the critique of empirical facts and abstract theories: it became a transcendental method uniting the conditions of every type of criticism and advancing the logic of self-criticism and moral construction.