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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 18, 2002

Truth and Objectivity in Social Ethics

Charles W. Mills
Pages 9-29

Defending the Radical Enlightenment

In this paper, I differentiate “two Enlightenments,” the mainstream Enlightenment and what I call the “radical Enlightenment,” that is, Enlightenment theory (rationalism, humanism, objectivism) informed by the fact of social oppression. Marxism can be seen as the pioneering example of radical Enlightenment theory, but it is, of course, relatively insensitive to gender and race issues, so we also need to include Enlightenment versions of feminism and critical race theory. I defend the radical Enlightenment against (on one front) the mainstream Enlightenment criticism that it is either already included in the latter, or if excluded, justifiably so, and (on the other front) against anti-Enlightenment criticisms (poststructuralism and some multiculturalists) that in whatever form, Enlightenment theory cannot adequately address social oppression.

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