LPC reading group: What is Enlightenment?

In 1784, Kant answered a call by a Berlin periodical for responses to the question "What is Enlightenment?", replying: "Enlightenment is mankind's exit from its self-incurred immaturity.  Immaturity is the inability to make use of one's own understanding without the guidance of another."

For this month's reading group, we'll read Kant's essay in full, as well as a selection of other, related texts---some pro-Enlightenment, some contra.  We'll discuss, with reference to the texts, the place of reason and autonomy in human life and thought, and whether Enlightenment values can and should be at the core of our ethical and political lives.

Downloadable pdfs of Kant's essay, and a choice of eleven other writings, are here:

http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~rac101/enlightenment/

Please read the Kant and at least a small handful of the others before the meeting, and RSVP 'yes' only if you'll attend.  Some of the texts are more historical, some historical, some surveys: it's your choice.

THE FORMAT

The meetings themselves are informal, with an emphasis on thinking together and sharing thoughts about the works and issues they raise.  There aren't any presentations---just open discussion about the books.

As the numbers are limited (in order to keep the atmosphere more intimate), please only RSVP 'yes' if you're going to attend---it's important that people have time to read the book before the meeting.  If you're down to attend but won't be able to make it, then do please change your RSVP as soon as possible.

IMPORTANT NOTE. As demand for the reading group is high, if you RSVP 'yes' and then don't attend or tend to change your RSVP at the last minute, we'll move you to the bottom of the waiting list.  We're sorry to have to do this, but we want to give people who are likely to come the opportunity.

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  • Ben Murray

    Belatedly, I'd just like to say that I really enjoyed this book group; I've shuffled some Kant further up my reading list as a result of this.
    What was really interesting for me is that, amongst the group, there didn't appear to be anyone who was more at ease with the counter-enlightenment stance than the enlightenment stance. At the same time, we do seem to be in a world-wide counter-enlightenment backlash at the moment. Where are the counter enlightenment voices? Does anyone know anyone who is seriously counter enlightenment? As a benchmark figure, I guess I'd pick Nigel Spivey as someone who seems to echo the counter enlightenment stance in a way similar to those mentioned in the Berlin article.

    1 · June 3, 2013

    • Rob

      On Kant, I'd definitely recommend the 'Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals' as a place to start for Kant's ethical thought. On metaphysics and epistemology, the 'Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics'.

      June 3, 2013

    • Russell

      You could try Adorno and Horkheimer's, 'Dialectic of Enlightenment.' It's a dialectical materialist critique of the origin of enlightenment reason - as a conditioned and functional product/fantasy of the contemporary bourgeoisie, arising hand in hand with the commodification and objectification of producers and the means of production.

      June 4, 2013

  • Pete Rogers

    Sorry had to take the cat to the vet at last moment. Hope to see you at the next one. Cat is fine now by the way.

    May 29, 2013

    • Rob

      Thanks for letting me know - see you soon.

      June 2, 2013

  • Joe Ferdinand

    I would like to mention two thoughts:

    1.
    Kants judgemental words Immature, Laziness, Cowardice, Thoughtless (Masses) are all words that apply be degrees:
    - In every period of man’s history they apply to a greater or lesser degree
    - We have each and every one of us needed the guidance of others in order to develop the use of our own understanding
    - Everyone uses their understanding in assessing their course of action and the trustworthiness of those who tell them things no matter how thoughtless Kant may consider them to be
    - And each of us is influenced to differing degrees by the thoughts of others, Kant included

    2.
    Reason, autonomy, freedom, knowledge are all powerful means, capacities, assets but the key question is what we will use them for; What sort of lives, what sort of family life, what sort of society will we use them to build?

    May 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi Robert,

    As there are many others interested, could we hope for organisation of this profound topic for us in the not too distant future?

    May 27, 2013

    • Rob

      Hello Jase, We've no plans to put on a third session for this ourselves. If you want to organize one yourself, you could post a message here to see if people want to meet. Best, Rob.

      May 28, 2013

  • Joe Ferdinand

    The subject of the Enlightenment, in particular because it is such a fascinating one, is so broad. And the literature cited doesn’t reduce its breadth. Would it be a good idea to limit the scope in some way so as to focus the discussion and allow better preparation?

    May 26, 2013

    • Rob

      Hi Joe, I've just got back from a few days away, so sorry for the late reply. I'm also still digesting the reading, so feel free to post any suggestions on here yourself so that others can see them. See you tomorrow, Rob.

      May 28, 2013

  • Simon Attwood

    Sorry for the late withdawal. Work commitments

    May 26, 2013

  • angelique

    Sorry no longer able to attend

    May 23, 2013

  • Rob

    Hello everyone,

    If you sign up for the alternative meeting which Pete is running, please take your name off the waiting list for this group.

    Thanks,

    Rob

    May 5, 2013

  • Pete Burgess

    An alternative spillover session has been organised on the same evening in the Upper Function Room at The Stonemasons' Arms, Cambridge Grove, Hammersmith at 7.30. The readings are the same. There will be a £3 charge for this meeting to cover the cost of the room hire.

    1 · May 3, 2013

  • Elaine Jobling

    I'd love to come! A bit confused though, as I was 1st on the wait list and I'm moving further and further down it :(

    April 28, 2013

    • Rob

      Hi Elaine, to me you're showing as top of the waiting list - very likely (practically certain) you'll be moved up. Best, Rob

      April 28, 2013

    • Elaine Jobling

      Brilliant! Could be because i'm away this weekend and viewing it from the mobile app. I haven't looked at the full site. Great! Really looking forward to it.

      April 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wow, a lot of material there to read which is wonderful, only scanned through a couple of pages. What comes to mind at this early stage is, a big Yes to courage of own thinking and maturity. But at the end of the day, what does autonomy mean in our very complex, fast moving world when we are realising we are not independent but totally interdependent? And should we not value the importance of allowing ourselves to be influenced at times (secret of a successful marriage for example)? Perhaps as much as knowing our mind, I am much attached to the Socratic approach of inquiry rather than knowing.
    And whether we like it or not, our own thinking will be influenced by so many things, our culture, society, generation, language etc. The first thing that came to my mind was how unpleasant some individuals can be when they are highly opinionated in daily life, and how sometimes I prefer people who are more open (less courageous?)
    Please forgive my uninformed view, I am just a novice :)

    1 · April 28, 2013

    • Rob

      Hello Pascale, thanks for starting the debate. I agree with many of the points you make. - And the question's raised of the degree to which we can accept that our reason is inherited from social traditions, whilst remaining confident that it gives us access to truth, ethical or otherwise. I'm sure this theme will come up at the meeting. Best, Rob

      April 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hello

    April 27, 2013

  • Magdalene

    :)

    April 26, 2013

  • Juliet Lecchini

    Yes please

    April 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    No thanks. I'm busy on 29 April but it sounds fascinating. I, for one, feel that I need more than 3 days notice for a meeting like this.

    April 26, 2013

    • Rob

      Hi,29th May, not April!

      April 26, 2013

  • Charlie Levi

    looking forward!

    April 26, 2013

  • Peter Gabriel Donnelly

    This will be my 1st meet up. Looking forward to it.

    April 26, 2013

  • Russell

    Interesting how what is seen as enlightenment in 'western' terms is almost the opposite of wisdom [moksha/liberation/enlightenment] as described in 'eastern' philosophy.

    April 26, 2013

  • Adam Bell

    Big Kant fan - looking forward to this!

    April 26, 2013

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