Three Critics of the Enlightenment

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Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder
Vico, Hamann, Herder.gif
The 2000 hardback first edition
Author Isaiah Berlin
Subject Counter-Enlightenment
Genre History of philosophy
Publisher Pimlico
Publication date
2000
Media type Hardcover, paperback
ISBN 0-7126-6492-0
OCLC 611211986

Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder is a collection of essays in the history of philosophy by 20th century philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin. Edited by Henry Hardy and released posthumously in 2000, the collection comprises the previously published works Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (1976) – an essay on Counter-Enlightenment thinkers Giambattista Vico and Johann Gottfried Herder – and The Magus of the North: J. G. Hamann and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism (1993), concerning irrationalist Johann Georg Hamann.

Isaiah Berlin Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas

Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was a Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. Although averse to writing, his improvised lectures and talks were recorded and transcribed, with his spoken word being converted by his secretaries into his published essays and books.

Henry Hardy British composer, writer and editor

Henry Robert Dugdale Hardy is a British author and editor.

The Counter-Enlightenment was a term that some 20th-century commentators have used to describe multiple strains of thought that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Contents

Overview

Berlin's initial interest in the critics of the Enlightenment arose through reading the works of Marxist historian of ideas Georgi Plekhanov. [1] The historian Zeev Sternhell has raised questions concerning the editing of the work, pointing to Henry Hardy's replacement of Berlin's citations of secondary sources with primary sources on a number of occasions. He suggests that Hardy's editing "raises doubts as to Berlin's reading of his sources," and concludes with the following observation: "The question whether systematically omitting the secondary sources and replacing them with texts that Berlin himself did not mention, which probably means he did not read them, can be considered a legitimate procedure is highly dubious." [2]

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Georgi Plekhanov Russian revolutionary

Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov was a Russian revolutionary and a Marxist theoretician. He was a founder of the social-democratic movement in Russia and was one of the first Russians to identify himself as "Marxist." Facing political persecution, Plekhanov emigrated to Switzerland in 1880, where he continued in his political activity attempting to overthrow the Tsarist regime in Russia.

Zeev Sternhell Israeli historian

Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world's leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and writes for Haaretz newspaper.

Vico and Herder are portrayed by Berlin as alternatives to the rationalistic epistemology which characterized the Enlightenment. [3] Berlin held that the agenda of the Enlightenment could be understood in a number of ways, and that to view it from the perspectives of its critics (i.e. Vico, Herder and Hamann) was to bring its distinctive and controversial aspects into sharp focus. [4] Three Critics was one of Berlin's many publications on the Enlightenment and its enemies that did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterised as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist and organic, [5] and which he associated most closely with German Romanticism.

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Relativism is the idea that views are relative to differences in perception and consideration. There is no universal, objective truth according to relativism; rather each point of view has its own truth.

Berlin identifies Hamann as one of the first thinkers to conceive of human cognition as language – the articulation and use of symbols. Berlin saw Hamann as having recognised as the rationalist's Cartesian fallacy the notion that there are "clear and distinct" ideas "which can be contemplated by a kind of inner eye", without the use of language. [6] Herder, coiner of the term Nazionalismus (nationalism) is portrayed by Berlin as conceiving of the nation as a "people's culture," the unique way of life of a particular folk, bound by ties of kinship and ties to land, defined by their unique history. [7]

Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as attention, the formation of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and "computation", problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

Language capacity to communicate using signs, such as words or gestures

Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; and a language is any specific example of such a system.

Cartesianism philosophical and scientific system of René Descartes

Cartesianism is the philosophical and scientific system of René Descartes and its subsequent development by other seventeenth century thinkers, most notably Nicolas Malebranche and Baruch Spinoza. Descartes is often regarded as the first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural sciences. For him, the philosophy was a thinking system that embodied all knowledge, and expressed it in this way:

Publication history

Princeton University Press independent publisher with close connections to Princeton University

Princeton University Press is an independent publisher with close connections to Princeton University. Its mission is to disseminate scholarship within academia and society at large.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

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References

  1. Cherniss,, Joshua; Hardy, Henry (2008-02-01). "Isaiah Berlin". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  2. Sternhell, Zeev (2010). The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition. Translated by David Maisel. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. p. 508 note 58. ISBN   978-0-300-13554-1.
  3. Password, F. (2006). "Secularism, Criticism, and Religious Studies Pedagogy". Teaching Theology & Religion. 9 (4): 203–210. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9647.2006.00285.x. Suggesting in effect that it can be better to theorize boldly than to engage in circumscribed projects, Berlin characterizes the "creative imagination" and "imaginative reconstruction of forms of life" in Vico and Herder as legitimate criticisms of scientific rationalism and the Enlightenment…In theory as well as in art, imagination represents an alternative to arid rationality.
  4. McGrath, A.E. (2001). A Scientific Theology: Nature. 1. Edinburgh; New York: T\&T Clark. ISBN   0-567-03122-5.
  5. Darrin M. McMahon, "The Counter-Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France" Past and Present No. 159 (May 1998:77-112) p. 79 note 7.
  6. Bleich, D. (2006). "The Materiality of Reading". New Literary History. 37 (3): 607–629. doi:10.1353/nlh.2006.0000 . Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  7. Cosgrove, Charles (2005). Cross-Cultural Paul. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ISBN   0-8028-2843-4.