Volume 18, 2002
Truth and Objectivity in Social Ethics
Charles W. Mills
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.