"I wonder if today’s liberal Western democracies would exist, and with them the rule of law, freedom of speech, liberty of the individual, the enfranchisement of women in political, economic and social respects, saner attitudes to sex and sexuality, and some of the other characteristic goods of contemporary secular society, if all the efforts to overturn the hegemony of religion and the Divine Right of Kings had failed in the mighty endeavour to break free of both during the centuries including and since the sixteenth?"On the topic of the legacy of the Enlightenment, historian, Darrin McMahon ends his quotation-laden talk at BB2 with the conclusion that we need to continue the incomplete work of the Enlightenment rather than creating a new Enlightenment:
“Just how radical were, indeed are, many of the values and mindsets standing behind the Enlightenment: the disposition to live without fear in what might well be a fatherless world; the disposition to chart our own course and our own ends for ourselves; the disposition to subject even our most cherished assumptions to constant criticism and investigation, to take nothing on faith.AC Grayling, Dec '07: The "New Atheists" are responding to provocation, not mounting an arbitrary attack.
Those are challenging injunctions. As are the package of values that grew out of their sustained application in the 17th and 18th centuries: the adoption of mathematical, historical reason as the sole criterion of truth; rejection of the supernatural agency, magic and disembodied spirits, divine providence of any kind; a defence of the equality of all humanity, including racial and sexual equality; the belief in a secular universalism and ethics, based on equity, justice, and charity; the vindication of freedom of expression; the adoption of democratic republicanism as the most legitimate form of political organization; personal liberty of lifestyle of sexual and other matters; and, comprehensive toleration of freedom of thought based on independent critical thinking.
This package of values, like the disposition that underlies them, is threatening, unsettling, difficult, frightening to those who have not yet emerged from their own imposed or self-imposed immaturity.”
More from Grayling.
enlightenment, AC Grayling