What Are ‘Enlightenment Values’?

by Jamie Stern-Weiner

The debate between advocates of a 'Secular Enlightenment', and critics who reject that understanding of the Enlightenment as overly accommodating to power, echoes the eighteenth century debate about the meaning of Enlightenment between Rousseau and the philosophes.

First published: 21 July, 2011 | Category: Philosophy and Theory, Religion

Al-Qaeda returned the Enlightenment to the political agenda. The debate about the significance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Bush administration’s subsequent ‘war on terror’ was framed, in part, as a debate about Enlightenment values. For many the attacks spoke above all to the dangers of resurgent religious fundamentalism. According to this line of argument the attack on the World Trade Center shattered a ‘post-historical’ complacency, and sharpened into relief the principle fault-line in the world today: that between religious fundamentalism and secular liberal democracy.

Secularist Enlightenment

Thus, for British novelist Martin Amis 9/11 was “a day of de-Enlightenment”, inaugurating a “bipolar” confrontation between “the West” and “an irrationalist… system” in a new “age of religion.[1] Paul Berman insisted that Islamist terrorists were driven by an “irrational, totalitarian hatred of the idea of liberal democracy”. For Christopher Hitchens, the attacks marked a moment of “exhilarat[ing]” clarification: here was “a direct, unmistakeable confrontation between everything I loved and everything I hated”. It was a “fight over essentials” – secular liberalism vs. religious tyranny – and as such, while he may have disagreed with the leadership of the Republican Party on other issues, that disagreement faded into the background.[2] Hitchens argued that 9/11 demanded in response an assertion – and not just a rhetorical one – of “some very important Enlightenment principles”. He directly linked his support for the war on terror to eighteenth century struggles against the Church: “[secularism]... only became thinkable after several wars and revolutions had ruthlessly smashed the hold of the clergy on the state. We are in the middle of another such war and revolution” – only this time, President Bush and the neoconservative right were leading the secularist charge.[3]

For these liberal thinkers, then, Enlightenment values were those principles – tolerance, secularism, autonomy, and universal rights – that underpinned Western liberal democratic orders. Those values were under attack, and so, consciously emulating the philosophes of the eighteenth century, liberal intellectuals sprang to their defence against religious fanaticism. This conception of Enlightenment values as opposed primarily to religious intolerance and superstition gained currency in the first half of the decade, underpinning an aggressive reassertion of atheism[4] and provoking many intellectuals to devote increasing amounts of time to attacking homeopathy, astrology, palm readers, conspiracy theorists, postmodern relativists, and similar threats to reason.[5] For convenience, this article will refer to this group of arguments as the Secularist Enlightenment, since they understand the Enlightenment primarily in opposition to superstition and religious authority.

The conscription of Enlightenment values to the cause of Western military intervention met with two kinds of response. Some were tempted to dismiss the Enlightenment itself as complicit in imperialism and empire[6], and drew on other intellectual traditions – notably Marxism – to formulate their opposition to the war on terror. A more interesting response – and the one this article will be concerned with – offered an internal critique: rather than rejecting Enlightenment values, it insisted on their importance and criticised the tendency described above for betraying and traducing them. I will first outline this critique, which amounts in part to a disagreement about the content of Enlightenment values, and then draw parallels between this debate about the political implications of the Enlightenment and a similar debate that engaged the original partisans of Enlightenment: that between Rousseau and the philosophes.

Open Enlightenment

Enlightenment values are not necessarily about promoting secularism against religion; they are concerned primarily with cultivating the conditions for human freedom. And in the West, today, the obstacles to human freedom are not only or even mainly religious. This is the essence of the enlightened critique of the Secularist Enlightenment. The philosopher and cultural critic Tzvetan Todorov draws on Enlightenment thought – relying in particular on Condorcet and, significantly for our purposes, Rousseau – to critique the practices of those who most aggressively claim to act in its name. For Todorov, the Enlightenment targeted not religious belief per se but religious authority, in the service of human emancipation. It championed reason against enforced dogmatism not out of mere prejudice against the latter, but from a conviction that “knowledge liberates”[7] For the philosophes “[reason] was opposed to authority” – the Enlightenment “always connected reason and freedom”.[8] Todorov appears to draw out the radical political implications of this when he notes that “when the status of truth is manipulated, we cannot be said to be living in a liberal democracy”.[9] The individual autonomy championed by Enlightenment is now threatened, he argues, not merely by religious obscurantism, but by corporate control of the media, the overpowering strength of public opinion, and restrictions on political sovereignty imposed by economic globalisation.[10]

But Todorov doesn’t pursue this line of thought very far, and indeed undercuts it with his triumphalist claim that, 250 years after the philosophes first did battle with the Church, we can declare their project victorious: “[our] knowledge of the world has progressed freely, without ideological prohibitions causing too much concern.”[11] Todorov notes that Condorcet condemned the increasing authoritarianism of the French Revolution as characteristic of “political religion”: “Robespierre is a priest and never will be anything else”.[12] The analogy between state authoritarianism and theocracy might be apt in cases when, as the revolutionary leadership in France was increasingly inclined to do, “ruling powers dictate to people what they should think”.[13] But its utility for describing the threats to reason, autonomy and freedom in liberal democratic societies today is less clear. And Todorov’s litany of modern distortions of Enlightenment – “scientism”, “individualism”, “radical desacralization”, “loss of meaning”, “wholesale relativism”[14] – have little to say on the subject of political economy, surely one of the most significant factors shaping people’s opportunities for self-realisation today.

Dan Hind’s critique echoes Todorov’s, but distinguishes itself by taking political economy seriously. Hind worked as a publisher for ten years, and this exposed him to the ways in which powerful interests shape what people know.[15] Through subsidies, institutional cultures and market pressures, the publishing process is skewed in favour of the economic status quo, and this sharply limits the public’s capacity to meaningfully self-govern. Hind’s experience in the publishing industry informs his critique of the “Folk Enlightenment”[16] – here labelled the Secularist Enlightenment – for understanding the Enlightenment today primarily “in the context of a confrontation with its irrational enemies”. For him, the idea that ‘Enlightenment values’ are “to be defended against, or brought to bear on, external irrational or anti-rational threats” mistakes the real threats to reason, and confuses Enlightenment with an attack on religious or irrational authority as opposed to a project to expand the scope of human freedom.

Kant’s description of Enlightenment as “mankind’s exit from his self-incurred immaturity”[17] through the autonomous use of reason is by now almost clichéd. It is frequently appealed to by advocates of the Secularist Enlightenment as inspiration for their struggle against religious faith. But while Kant did focus on liberation from religious dogma, he did so because in the context in which he was writing, religious authority could plausibly be considered the main obstacle to the free use of reason:

“I have placed the main point of Enlightenment – the escape of men from their self-incurred tutelage – chiefly in matters of religion because our rulers have no interest in playing the guardian with respect to the arts and sciences and also because religious incompetence is not only the most harmful but also the most degrading of all.”[18]

But, as Hind points out, while this may have been the case in the eighteenth century, “modern state power in Britain and America does not concern itself much with enforcing uniformity of religious belief”:

“For the most part we do not obey our leaders because we believe they have been chosen by God to rule over us. We accept the legitimacy of our modern guardians because of what we believe about material reality.”[19]

For Hind, the most serious contemporary threats to reason stem not from institutions and ideologies that openly reject it, but from those that most vociferously champion and claim to embody it. President Bush did not attempt to convince Americans of the case for attacking Iraq on the basis of religious justifications, but – “weapons of mass destruction” aside – in the name of progress and human rights. Corporations undermine movements to avert dangerous climate change not by rejecting science, but by selectively funding it and distorting reportage of it.[20] Pharmaceutical companies seek to pass off dangerous drugs by presenting them not as ‘alternative medicine’ but as the product of rigorously impartial, scientific testing. “Science, not theology, has become the arena in which we must fight for the victory of Enlightenment since it is through their claims to rationality and scientific understanding that our guardians bind us in obedience to the established order.”[21] The American moral philosopher Susan Neiman similarly argues that Enlightenment is a commitment to “demystify the myths that keep illegitimate power alive”. In the eighteenth century “traditional religion was the source of most of these myths”, but this is no longer the case. Enlightenment principles applied today would focus not on fundamentalist religion but on “failing educational systems”, “advertising-driven media” and a global economic structure that violates the quintessential Enlightenment value of equal rights.[22] Instead of trying to re-fight old battles, a twenty-first century Enlightenment would seek out new ones.

For Hind, the most useful organising framework for applying Enlightenment values in the West today is not ‘reason vs. unreason’, but the “Open Enlightenment” against the “Occult Enlightenment”[23] – the public use of reason in the service of human welfare and liberation, as against the secretive, private use of reason in the service of domination. Where for Hitchens 9/11 was an event of “political-historical significance”[24], for Hind the intellectual reaction it produced was a distraction from what had until that point been a key political battle: that between proponents and opponents of ‘Washington Consensus’ neoliberalism. Worse than that, the idea that the Enlightenment was now under threat from irrational enemies enabled the “established order” to “once again consider themselves enlightened”. They could “declare the debate about globalization over and call on their opponents to unite against a common enemy.”[25] Framing Enlightenment as a clash between the forces of reason and unreason enabled its self-proclaimed inheritors to strip it of its critical edge, and to side with power while donning the mantle of a courageous and oppressed minority.

The struggle between the IMF and the alter-globalisation movement could not be characterised a clash between reason and unreason. Both sides sought to present their case in terms of secular evidence and universal principles, and portrayed their opponents as enemies of progress and justice. Both sides claimed the mantle of Enlightenment, and so Enlightenment values as framed by Hitchens et al. are ill-equipped to choose between them. “Understood narrowly in terms of a clash between the rational and the irrational”, Hind concludes, “the Enlightenment can say nothing about one of the most important political contests of our time.”[26]

Renewing the Autocritique

The eighteenth century was, in many respects, the century in which Europe began to be recognisably our own. Herein lies much of the appeal of revisiting eighteenth century political thought: many of the debates that engaged the greatest minds of that era remain on the political agenda today. Such proves to be the case here. Hind’s critique of the Secularist Enlightenment structurally resembles, in interesting ways, Rousseau’s critique of the philosophes. Rousseau’s status as an Enlightenment thinker is not uncontroversial. His very public duels with Voltaire, Diderot, and other prominent Enlightenment figures, together with his religious and primitivist streaks, have led many to charge him with ‘romantic’ tendencies, or to locate him in the ‘counter-Enlightenment’. The American historian of political thought Mark Hulliung, however, convincingly shows that Rousseau’s disagreements with the philosophes were internal to the Enlightenment tradition. Like them, Rousseau championed the use of reason, opposed religious authority, advanced materialist explanations for historical and political events, argued for tolerance, and sought a secular means to reconcile virtue with self-love. His critique was an “autocritique”, conducted on the basis of shared Enlightenment values.[27]

Rousseau, more than the philosophes he criticised, turned his critical gaze on society as a whole, rather than simply religion or political tyranny (understood in the conventional sense). As we saw above, Hind and Neiman are both prepared to concede that in the eighteenth century institutionalised religion was the main obstacle to human freedom. Certainly the philosophes raged above all against religious authority as the source of social evils. But not everyone felt the same way. Like the philosophes, Rousseau opposed religious authority – he initially intended to include in the Second Discourse a section denouncing the priesthood – but for him, “civilized society was a greater threat than religion to the integrity of human nature.”[28] The philosophes had always taken “error” to refer to religion, which was their chief target. Rousseau’s contribution was to “show that the greatest ‘error’ of all – the idol that had to be thrown down – was not God, the idol of the priests, but rather society, the idol of the philosophes”.[29] We saw above that Kant focused his argument for the free exercise of reason against enforced religious dogma on the grounds that “our rulers have no interest in playing the guardian with respect to the arts and sciences”. Rousseau – a significant influence on Kant, who praised him as a second Newton[30] – begged to differ.

Rousseau was very conscious of the role played by the arts and sciences in propping up illegitimate authority. “Need raised up Thrones; the Sciences and Arts have made them strong”. They “spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains” which bind people, “throttle in them the sentiment of that original freedom for which they seemed born, make them love their slavery, and fashion them into what is called civilized Peoples.”[31] Unlike those philosophes who preferred freedom to equality, Rousseau insisted on the primacy of the latter, on the grounds that “freedom cannot last without it”.[32] He identified social inequality as the principle threat to human freedom[33], and he traced its origins not to religious doctrine, but to social relations and then social institutions, specifically “the institution of property and laws”.[34] Property was for Rousseau the cause of untold “miseries and horrors” and a principal obstacle to human freedom. Rousseau’s commitment to Enlightenment values thus led him not merely to oppose theocracy and support the independent use of reason, a position common among the philosophes and echoed by advocates of the Secularist Enlightenment today, but to a radically republican and comparatively egalitarian[35] politics. Like Hind, Rousseau took the Enlightenment to be a project for human emancipation in the most comprehensive sense. This entailed opposition to unjust forms of authority, the most significant of which did not justify themselves on the basis of religion.

Hind’s critique of the Secularist Enlightenment is in part a reminder that Enlightenment is not supposed to be easy. Nor, taken seriously, is it likely to be popular. A major element of the philosophes’ project was to show how virtue could be reconciled with self-interest without the need for religious self-denial. As Holbach declared, “[let] no-one tell us again that virtue demands doleful sacrifices”.[36] To achieve this many attempted to ground a “scientific morality” not on self-sacrifice but on self-love. Their aim was to show “how readily self-interest endorses virtuous actions”.[37] For Rousseau this was all a bit too easy. He agreed with the philosophes that virtue had to be reconciled with interest. But he didn’t think one could rely on self-love to align the two. Rather, the only way to encourage virtue – the “conformity of the private will to the general” – was to foster a culture of patriotism (‘civic virtue’), which, by “combining the force of egoism with all the beauty of virtue”, “gains an energy” that “makes it the most heroic of all the passions.”[38] Rousseau traced moral corruption to the destructive amour-propre fostered by (primarily secular) social institutions, and concluded that those institutions had to be radically reconfigured. If Diderot’s “general will” were to become more than an empty abstraction, Rousseau insisted, it would have to be institutionally embodied in an egalitarian republic. This posed a serious challenge to the philosophes’ efforts to demonstrate that virtue was easy and natural. Like Hind’s critique of the Secularist Enlightenment, Rousseau’s autocritique of Enlightenment offers a salutary reminder that a principled commitment to Enlightenment will be difficult. It will challenge powerful political and economic forces, and is unlikely to make one friends in high places. If – as with Hitchens, Berman, Beinart[39], et al. – your advocacy of ‘Enlightenment values’ gets you invited to fancy parties and wins the praise of elite institutions and their representatives, there is a good chance you are doing it wrong.

Fanaticism and Interests

The radically critical character of Enlightenment values as understood by Rousseau and Hind is also illustrated by their treatment of fanaticism. Those who subscribe to a version of the Secular Enlightenment, defined primarily in opposition to religion and superstition, understandably have no time for religious fanaticism. But those who see Enlightenment values as being concerned with human freedom more broadly, and who don’t view religion and superstition as being the main threats to that project in the West today, can be more open to opportunities to collaborate with the religious, and even to detect in fanaticism a potential emancipatory force.

As we saw above, for Enlightenment warriors of the Hitchens and Berman school, religious fundamentalism is the principal enemy of Enlightenment, extremist Islam in particular. For this Secularist Enlightenment, Voltaire, with his unrelenting opposition to “l’infâme”, looms large. It so happens that one of the many disagreements between Rousseau and Voltaire was on precisely this issue.

Paul Berman criticised Noam Chomsky’s reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks for failing to grasp that the hijackers were simply “irrational”.[40] Others went further and suggested that efforts to explain al-Qaeda terrorism amounted to attempts to justify it. ‘Sapere non aude!’ appears to be the principle at work here. Voltaire didn’t go this far. His play Mahomet the Prophet sought not just to condemn fanatical movements, but to elucidate their dynamics. The “Voltaire thesis”[41] was that religious leaders cynically exploit the beliefs of their followers for base political ends. Voltaire’s intention with the play was to show “into what horrible excesses fanaticism, led by an impostor, can plunge weak minds”, and although he directed it against the “false and barbarous sect” of Islam in particular, it can be taken as opposing religious fanaticism per se.[42] Nonetheless, Voltaire’s account of fanaticism was, like Berman’s, a “monotonous” one, in that diverse manifestations of fanaticism throughout history were assimilated as minor variations on the same theme, with the same underlying causes.[43]

Voltaire’s depiction of Muhammad as a “Machiavellian armed prophet” who manipulates the sincere fanaticism of his followers for political purposes implied that the “cure for fanaticism is less a frontal attack on fanatics than a stripping away of the veil from those who manipulate them”. Indeed, in Mahomet Voltaire “feels no need… to demonstrate the falseness” of the fanatics’ beliefs – the “only faith that he attacks directly is their faith in their leaders.”[44]

Rousseau shared Voltaire’s hostility to religious fanaticism (of a certain kind). But he rejected Voltaire’s solution, which appeared to understand fanaticism as “essentially an error of understanding” that can be “corrected by exposing the imposture that feeds it”. [45] For Rousseau, this understated the extent to which people’s reasoning processes are motivated and directed by their emotions. Fanaticism, for Rousseau, is not simply an error; it is a passion. This alternative explanation led Rousseau to advocate force as an alternative to enlightenment to combat fanatical intolerance.[46]

Rousseau’s critique of Mahomet points the way to a more ambivalent Enlightenment engagement with fanaticism than allowed for by the Secularist Enlightenment. For, even as he regarded fanaticism “more dangerous” than did Voltaire, Rousseau also regarded it as “potentially more useful”. [47]Though in the republic of letters Rousseau was “almost unique in the intensity of his religious convictions”,[48] he could be just as staunch a critic of religious extremism as Voltaire – condemning, for example, the “furies of fanaticism” that, unrestrained, would destroy humanity.[49] But, to a much greater extent than the most of the philosophes, Rousseau was also alive to fanaticism’s emancipatory potential. The enthusiasm that drives fanaticism could, if redirected, provide an “indispensable basis for genuine devotion to a community”.[50]

Rousseau sought to discover the conditions in which citizens could be relied upon to freely submit to laws – or, restated, in which self-love would be reconciled with civic virtue. His solution was to “displace self-interest from the natural individual to a broader whole”, such that “love of country subsumes love of oneself”.[51] To accomplish this he relied on a kind of civic fanaticism, or what Deleyre called the “fanaticism of the patriot”.[52] Deleyre wrote the Encyclopédie article on fanaticism, in which he largely confined himself to the conventional Enlightenment denunciation of it as “superstition put into practice”[53], the product of a “distorted conscience” that “enslaves religion to the caprices of the imagination and the disorders of the passions”.[54] But towards the end, he noted the potential for civic fanaticism – passion for one’s community and state – to “lend energy and substance to… society”.[55] Rousseau similarly observed that “religion ... does many things that philosophy could not”. [56] Hulliung interprets this remark in the context of Rousseau’s personal disputes with the philosophes, but while it was made in a polemical context, it is more useful to understand it in light of Rousseau’s reliance on a zealous “civic fanaticism”[57] to hold his envisioned egalitarian republic together.

Rousseau and Voltaire’s divergent analyses of fanaticism reflect, ultimately, the differing degrees to which they were critical of the prevailing social order as a whole. Voltaire’s opposition to fanaticism led him to seek remedies not just in philosophy but in ‘enlightened’ authoritarianism. He dedicated Mahomet to Frederick the Great[58], and his celebration of Catherine II’s decision to send “forty thousand Russians [to Poland] to preach tolerance with bayonets at the end of their rifles”[59] foreshadows the turn by many partisans of the Secularist Enlightenment to the U.S. military as a force for progress in the Middle East.

Rousseau’s commitment to Enlightenment values, by contrast, led him to what might be called a ruthless criticism of all that exists and a politics that sought to radically change existing social institutions. As such he was open to the possibility of harnessing the galvanising potential of religion for enlightened ends. As he explained:

“[fanaticism], although sanguinary and cruel, is nevertheless a grand and strong passion which elevates the heart of man, ... and gives him a prodigious energy that need only be better directed to produce the most sublime virtues.”[60]

Rousseau considered Voltaire’s brand of anti-fanaticism to be far too complacent about the state of existing social institutions. His criticism of the political conservatism of philosophes was biting:

“[if] atheism be less sanguinary, it is less out of love to peace than from an indifference to virtue… The indifference of a philosopher resembles the tranquillity of a state under a despotic government: it is the tranquillity of death, and more destructive than war itself.”[61]

Rousseau was “revolt[ed]” by Voltaire’s “anti-political” opposition to fanaticism, which was manifested by an “indifference” to the injustice of existing secular institutions.[62] Where Voltaire contrasted the horrors of all-consuming zeal with the virtues of calm, restrained moderation, Rousseau was not prepared to “[dissipate] the passions only in order the better to expand the reign of interests”.[63] Enlightenment values as understood by Rousseau were more challenging, and potentially more dangerous, but the risks, he believed, were worth taking, if the Enlightenment as a project to expand human freedom was to have any chance of success.

Hind’s critique of the Secular Enlightenment approach to religion doesn’t neatly map on to Rousseau’s critique of Voltaire. Like Voltaire, though unlike some of his self-proclaimed heirs, Hind argues that the best way to deal with fundamentalist religion is not to “declare war on religious irrationality” but to expose how religious believers “have been manipulated by a leadership that sees them as a resource to be sold to politicians”.[64] This is the same “characteristic cure of enlightenment” [65] advocated by Voltaire in Mahomet. Hind gives the example of Evangelicals in the U.S. whose leadership effectively sells their bloc vote to political interests in exchange for power and wealth.[66] But Hind also follows Rousseau in insisting that an enlightened response to fanatical religion must “take the psychology of religious experience” seriously. To treat religious belief as simply an error of understanding, without considering its social and emotional significance in “particular economic, political and cultural conditions”, renders productive engagement impossible and plays into a broader deceit, in which satisfying showdowns between Reason and Faith obscure more serious threats to enlightened values which straddle that divide. [67] Moreover, like Rousseau, Hind is open to the possibility of harnessing the enthusiasm that drives religious fanaticism to enlightened ends. He suggests, for instance, that Evangelical belief can be re-directed against corporate tyranny.[68] Rather than fixating on the opposition between “reason” and “faith”, Hind prefers to draw a line between reason and faith in the service of power and reason and faith in the service of liberation.

Conclusion

The conception of Enlightenment values as opposed to ‘unreason’ and ‘irrationality’ fails to register the dispute between Rousseau and Voltaire about fanaticism, or Rousseau’s criticisms of the philosophes more broadly. Indeed it elides most of the disagreements within the Enlightenment tradition and, in the search for a cosy and politically convenient consensus, forsakes almost everything interesting about it.

It is worth recalling, amidst enlightened chest thumping against religious fanaticism, that the epithet “fanatic” was often deployed against the original Enlightenment thinkers themselves. Nietzsche branded Kant a “moral fanatic”, and advocates of Enlightenment were often accused of a “fanaticism of reason”, on the basis that they claimed “unmediated access to reality”.[69] This should serve as a reminder that consistent application of ‘Enlightenment values’, understood as opposition not merely to religious authority but to every illegitimate restriction on the exercise of human freedom, will typically entail a radical critique of existing social institutions, and is more likely to get one branded a crank than a sage. For all their bravado, polemics against ‘cold reading’ and conspiracy theories hardly trouble those with power – particularly when the latter term can be deployed to undermine critiques of Western foreign policy.[70] And when Enlightenment values are deployed not to defend a member of a vulnerable minority against state imprisonment for wearing the wrong clothing, but to cheer on her arrest, something somewhere has clearly gone wrong.[71]

In a world in which the major obstacles to human freedom ground their authority not on religious doctrine but on claims about science and reason, an Enlightenment concerned primarily with forces that openly declare themselves its enemies is, at best, misdirected. At worst, as in the case of those liberals who supported the invasion of Iraq on the basis of Enlightenment values, it is liable to be conscripted by powerful institutions in the service of domination. The Secularist Enlightenment’s attempt to ground a critical politics on Enlightenment values, in short, flounders on its emphasis on the enemies the Enlightenment fought rather than the basis on which it fought them.

The values of the Enlightenment were not opposed to religion per se.[72] The Secularist Enlightenment’s narrow understanding of Enlightenment values ignores the broader aims towards which the enlightened critique of religious authority was directed, and in so doing undermines the Enlightenment’s usefulness as a basis for an emancipatory politics today.

Jamie Stern-Weiner studies politics at King’s College, Cambridge. He is co-editor of New Left Project and a contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique. He tweets at @jamiesw

Front image: ‘Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism’ [1761], William Hogarth.

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[1] Amis, Martin. The Second Plane - September 11: Terror and Boredom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008:9-13.

[2] Hitchens, explaining his support for President Bush’s re-election, declared himself a “single-issue person at present”. (Hitchens, cited in Scialabba, George. "Farewell Hitch." Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left. Ed. Simon Cottee and Thomas Cushman. New York: New York UP, 2008:269)

[3] Hitchens, Christopher. Ed. Simon Cottee and Thomas Cushman. Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left. New York: New York UP, 2008:63, 12-3, 83-4.

[4] Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and, notably, Christopher Hitchens wrote bestselling books stridently rejecting religion both as a basis for truth and as a source of moral guidance, becoming spokesmen for “militant atheism”.

[5] Cf. Wheen, Francis. How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World: A Short History of Modern Delusions. London: Harper Perennial, 2004; Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. Vintage, 2009.

[6] For a good rebuttal to this line of critique, cf. Muthu, Sankar. Enlightenment Against Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2003.

[7] Todorov, Tzvetan. In Defence of the Enlightenment. London: Atlantic, 2009:8.

[8] Neiman, Susan. Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009:194, 202.

[9] Todorov 2009:95.

[10] Ibid.:50-4.

[11] Ibid.:15.

[12] Condorcet, cited in ibid.:65.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.:150.

[15] See my interview with him.

[16] The Threat to Reason: How the Enlightenment Was Hijacked and How We Can Reclaim It. London: Verso, 2007:24.

[17] Kant, Immanuel. “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” [1784], in Schmidt, James. What Is Enlightenment?: Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions. Berkeley: University of California, 1996:58.

[18] Kant, cited in Hind 2007:48.

[19] Ibid.:49.

[20] As BP did in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, for example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/15/bp-control-science-gulf-oil-spill. For more, cf. Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.

[21] Hind 2007:49.

[22] Neiman 2009:136-7.

[23] Hind 2007:6.

[24] Hitchens 2008:12.

[25] Ibid.:17-8.

[26] Ibid.:26.

[27] Hulliung, Mark. The Autocritique of Enlightenment: Rousseau and the Philosophes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994:7.

[28] Ibid.:39-40.

[29] Hulliung 1994:75.

[30] Neiman, Susan. Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2002:36; Neiman 2009:150.

[31] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings. Ed. Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997 [1750]:6.

[32] Rousseau, cited in Hulliung 1994:242. It should be noted, however, that Rousseau’s egalitarianism did not extend to gender equality.

[33] Hampsher-Monk, Iain. A History of Modern Political Thought: Major Thinkers from Hobbes to Marx. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992:162.

[34] Rousseau, cited in ibid.:172.

[35] The word ‘comparatively’ is important here – as noted above there is no place in Rousseau’s thought for, say, gender equality (to put it mildly).

[36] Holbach, cited in Hulliung 1994:21.

[37] Ibid.:19.

[38] Rousseau, cit. ibid.:30.

[39] The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

[40] Berman, Paul. Terror and Liberalism. New York: Norton, 2003:152-3. For scholarly arguments rejecting the analysis of terrorists as “insane and irrational actors”, cf. Bjørgo, Tore. Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward. London: Routledge, 2005; Richardson, Louise, ed. The Roots of Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2006; Pape, Robert A. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House, 2005; Pape, Robert A., and James K. Feldman. Cutting the Fuse: the Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2010.

[41] Holmes, Stephen. "Al-Qaeda, September 11, 2001." Ed. Diego Gambetta. Making Sense of Suicide Missions. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005:136.

[42] Voltaire. Voltaire in His Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence. Trans. S. G. Tallentyre. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919:72.

[43] Toscano, Alberto. Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea. London: Verso, 2010.

[44] Kelly, Christopher. "Pious Cruelty: Rousseau on Voltaire’s Mahomet." Rousseau and "L’Infame": Religion, Toleration, and Fanaticism in the Age of Enlightenment. Ed. Ourida Mostefai and John T. Scott. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009:178-80.

[45] Ibid.:181.

[46] Ibid.:182.

[47] Ibid.:183.

[48] Wokler, Robert. Rousseau: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001:104.

[49] Cited in Trachtenberg, Zev. “Rousseau on Fanaticism, Patriotism, and the Dynamics of Pity”. <http://www.ou.edu/ouphil/faculty/trachtenberg/FanaticismPity.pdf>:1.

[50] Kelly 2009:184.

[50], Zev. “Civic Fanaticism and the Dynamics of Pity.” Rousseau and "L’Infame": Religion, Toleration, and Fanaticism in the Age of Enlightenment. Ed. Ourida Mostefai and John T. Scott. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009:220-21.

[51] Deleyre, cited in Toscano 2010:105.

[52] Deleyre, Alexandre. "Fanaticism [abridged]." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Stephen J. Gendzier. Ann Arbor: Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library, 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0001.305>. Trans. of "Fanatisme [abridged]," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 6. Paris, 1756.

[54] Cited in Trachtenberg:1.

[55] Deleyre, cited in Toscano 2010:105.

[56] Rousseau, cited in Hulliung 1994:217.

[57] Rousseau, cited in Toscano 2010:106.

[58] Kelly 2009:178.

[59] Voltaire, cited in Toscano 2010:108.

[60] Rousseau, cited in Hulliung 1994:217

[61] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Emilius and Sophia: or, a new system of education. Translated from the French of Mr. J. J. Rousseau, Citizen of Geneva. By the translator of Eloisa. ... Vol. Volume 3. London,  MDCCLXIII. [1763]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Cambridge University Library:151. One recalls the slogan of the 2009 ‘Atheist Bus’ campaign, championed by Richard Dawkins: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

[62] Toscano 2010:109.

[63] Toscano 2010:109.

[64] Hind 2007:75.

[65] Kelly 2009:1818.

[66] 2007:74.

[67] Ibid.:75-8.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.:120.

[70] As when Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed the “conspiracy theory” that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with the latter’s oil reserves (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/jan/15/foreignpolicy.uk). Cf. Dan Hind on David Aaronovitch: http://thereturnofthepublic.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/the-aaronovitch-code/

[71] Earlier this year French police made the first arrests in connection with France’s newly passed ban on wearing Islamic veils in public (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/11/french-police-detain-veil-protesters). ‘Enlightenment values’ have been conscripted both to support the ban and to oppose it. The split within the NPA – a radical left party – provides an instructive microcosm of this aspect of the debate: for one (partisan) account, see: http://socialistworker.org/2010/12/15/islamophobia-and-the-npa

[72] On the contrary: if Rousseau’s project amounted to an autocritique of Enlightenment, the Enlightenment project can in many respects be understood as an autocritique of religion. (Neiman 2009:230)

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