Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 6, Issue 3/4, Fall/Winter 1999

Robert M. Baird
Pages 1-8

The Deep Spirit of the Enlightenment
A Defense

Currently the Enlightenment tradition is under such intense attack that Richard Bernstein calls the present mood a “rage against the enlightenment.” The purpose of this essay is to defend the deep spirit of the Enlightenment, the position that no idea, proposition, or principle should be beyond critical assessment. The defense involves an examination of and a response to two criticisms of the Enlightenment: first that the Enlightenment disdainfully rejects religion, particularly Christianity, and second that Enlightenment thinkers had a misguided confidence in the powers of a-historical reason, i. e. the notion that humans have a rational capacity, unaffected by context or historical circumstance, to arrive at truth.

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