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But more on that in the coming months! Contemporary pundits and political demagogues often play the skeptic in an attempt to sway popular opinion and fuel nascent populist movements. By questioning how we know what we know, whether we can know anything with certainty, or whether any source or testimony can be fully trustworthy, these figures seek to undermine the basic shared assumptions of liberal societies. The use and arguably abuse of skepticism raises troubling questions, but they are neither new nor peculiar to the present.
They harken back to previous crises of certainty. The skeptics, by contrast, called for a suspension of judgement on all questions and insisted that we could know nothing with certainty — not even the proposition that we could know nothing with certainty! This volume of essays provides a timely explanation of how Enlightenment thinkers successfully grappled with the challenges posed by an earlier crisis of philosophical confidence. Philosophers no longer considered rationality an innate or nearly infallible faculty. Contrary to what one might expect, critics of organized religion and those who championed faith against reason both embraced skeptical doubt.
In a further irony, notable opponents of skepticism emerged from amongst those who tried to defend the rational foundations of belief. We suggest that rethinking the central place of skepticism in eighteenth-century learned culture provides important insights into the most vital concerns faced by the intellectuals of this period. Indeed, skeptical doubts were pervasive in various fields of knowledge, including not only epistemology and metaphysics, but also history, jurisprudence, theology, and political thought.
Essays in this volume therefore highlight how debates between the skeptics and their opponents helped inform the modern evidentiary foundations of these fields and disciplines. While the historical contexts are vastly different, important similarities nevertheless exist between the present and the eighteenth-century skeptical crisis. Then as now, various economic uncertainties, the proliferation of new forms of media, and new technologies all combine to create the sense that the real world might not be as it appears.
Then as now, some answers can be found in a reexamination of the fundamental assumptions and truths that may no longer be as self-evident as we might think. Then as now, the ability to grapple with these questions has profound moral and political implications. Matytsin Kenyon College and Jeffrey D. Burson Georgia Southern University. The above post is reblogged from Liverpool University Press.
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Anton M. Matytsin and Jeffrey D. One of the many outstanding women in Russian history and perhaps the most powerful woman anywhere in the world in the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great would undoubtedly have been horrified by the Russian Revolution. Catherine was in many ways a self-made woman. Born to a German princely family in what is today Poland, she was brought to Russia at the age of 14 to be married off to her first cousin and the heir to the Russian imperial throne, the future emperor Peter III.
Lintolérance (Académie universelle des cultures) (French Edition)
As she recounts in her marvellous memoirs , when she first arrived in Russia she was forbidden even from having pen and paper, for fear that she would meddle in politics. Her marriage was very unhappy, and Catherine found herself extremely isolated. But she also knows how very much the nation needs to be well managed internally. She still had an uphill battle to fight: not only was she unrelated by blood to the Romanov family, she had not been designated by the previous empress, Elizabeth, as the legitimate heir in accordance with Russian law.
Many people expected Catherine to rule as regent for her young son, Paul, or to be overthrown too in short order. Only with that can one overcome and endure anything. Now in its fourth year, this is a festival of public events designed to engage broad debate around all manner of ideas and issues, and it is celebrated all over France as well as in the various French cultural institutes in more than 70 countries around the world.
The evening that finished with Wikipedia had begun with Voltaire. Their ambition, inspired by the work of Jean Vilar, was to produce accessible theatrical perfomances in unconventional spaces that would be free and open to all; the texts performed were philosophical and thought-provoking, accessible but certainly not dumbed down. Enlightenment texts have figured too, notably Diderot and Voltaire.
The Epilogue describes how Voltaire uses the theatre to educate, and the performance ended with these words:. The performance and ensuing debate were certainly successful in taking an eighteenth-century polemical text and making it speak to and engage a modern audience.
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The government could successfully censor such a large and cumbersome enterprise. Smaller books are faster to produce and easier to hide; and being cheaper, they can reach a larger audience.
The question of why Voltaire ceased revising the Dictionnaire philosophique after , and turned instead to creating a new and longer alphabetical work, is not easily answered. One response might be to say that by , when Voltaire enjoyed towering celebrity status, he was hardly concerned to say new things, but he was most definitely concerned to convey his message to a new and wider audience. And certainly one way to test this hypothesis will be to bring the articles to life in front of audiences and measure their reaction.
Cultural institutions in the twenty-first century have an obligation to reach out and engage wider publics. But perhaps this is nothing new. Evidence for his desire to reach new publics can be found in his style and expression, as well as in his experiments with different literary forms. In the best sense of the term, Voltaire was a great journalist. In the precarious business of speaking truth to power, he was firmly in the tradition of Auberon Waugh, who gave this advice to the author and journalist Henry Porter:.
In order to expand our network of Digitizing Enlightenment projects and researchers, we encourage those working in any aspect of digital humanities across the interdisciplinary spectrum of eighteenth-century studies to attend the event, if in Edinburgh, or contact us for more information. Meantime below is the second post in our series of follow-up discussions based on work presented at the Digitizing Enlightenment III workshop. Eighteenth-century French salons have developed a mystical aura as sites of elite sociability and more controversially as potential workshops of Enlightenment philosophy.
They were, however, ordinary face-to-face gatherings in many ways — not unlike unscheduled conferences and meetings with loose agendas today; the one consistent difference is that they were held in private homes instead of conference rooms and organized by individuals normally women rather than groups or committees. Aside from these very general characteristics, salons had a wide variety of purposes, publics, and activities.
I am the co-director with Chloe Edmondson of The Salons Project , a database of primarily eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European salon participants.
We completed our pilot project of French salons from to last year and have some preliminary results, which will appear in the volume Digitizing Enlightenment , edited by Glenn Roe and Simon Burrows, in We found that nobles were present in all salons, as were gens de lettres , and that these people were often one and the same. Our list of more than salon participants is far from a complete record of eighteenth-century French salon attendees, but it is the largest and most complete database that we are aware of.
The purpose of our study was not only to create a database, but also to create a method and a format for sharing data about salons and other informal networks.
This method uses the robust data model created by the Electronic Enlightenment project, such that our data are compatible with the many other Enlightenment-era projects that are inspired by that database. Salon, correspondence, and knowledge networks in French salons, to data from The Salons Project , Conroy and Edmondson.
Within our larger dataset to , we found that the letters networks and salon networks remained well integrated, and that philosophes were a minority but well integrated into the core of the network see diagram. Whereas the best known salons of the era were well integrated into the letters and philosophical networks, it is important to remember that many of the salon attendees were not otherwise part of the French Enlightenment network, especially women, lower-status individuals, family members of other salon participants, and foreigners.
By adding these more marginal people to the records on eighteenth-century French sociability, we hope to open up new avenues for finding social relations that are not well known among these more marginal participants on the edges of the Enlightenment. Even where we were not able to learn much about some of these more minor figures, including them in this preliminary dataset increases the chances that we will learn more about them in the future. She can be reached at mrconroy memphis. Your Easy-access EZA account allows those in your organisation to download content for the following uses:.
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