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Enlightening the enlightenment: On the permanent concept crisis

DOI: 10.2298/fid1002003b

Keywords: enlightenment , the Enlightenment , projecting the Enlightenment , public sphere , modernity

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Abstract:

Two hundred and twenty years after the French Revolution, the problem of defining the concept of the Enlightenment still persists. Considering the lack of agreement over the defining features of this movement or epoch, our aim is to show that it has never been fully and clearly defined and understood. The author therefore suggests making a distinction between enlightenment (enlightening) and the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment as a period linked to 18th century Europe, can be understood as part of a broader process of enlightenment or enlightening. The Enlightenment should not be viewed as a homogenous whole, an integral process, but as a (still living) tissue, that still exerts considerable influence on Western thought and culture. The author argues, however, that the accusations of projecting or inventing the Enlightenment have not proved very useful, because they interfere with our understanding of this complex phenomenon and important movement in European history.

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