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The European Enlightenment: Was It Enlightened?

Haydn Mason
The Modern Language Review
Vol. 94, No. 4 (Oct., 1999), pp. xxvii-xxxviii
DOI: 10.2307/3737337
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3737337
Page Count: 12
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The European Enlightenment: Was It Enlightened?
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Abstract

Taking Michel Foucault's essay "Surveiller et punir" as a starting-point, this article considers the strengths and weaknesses of the Enlightenment movement in the light of its critics, mainly postmodernist in outlook, during the last fifty years. Contrary to assertions that the emphasis placed on reason and metanarratives had led to a provincial absolutism devoid of morality, the movement is presented as a process of intellectual emancipation, whose moral stance, essentially secular, placed a high value upon social betterment, tolerance, and the centrality of human life in the universe. English, French, German, and Italian writers are invoked as illustrations.

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