The Real Enlightenment

While nearly every social movement claims Enlightenment ideas—freedom, democracy and science—as their own, this very claim to authority cuts against the revolutionary English moment.

While nearly every social movement claims Enlightenment ideas—freedom, democracy and science—as their own, this very claim to authority cuts against the revolutionary English moment. "For Todorov," author of a French book on the subject recently translated into English, "the key thing about the Enlightenment project is the principle of autonomy—that is, ‘giving priority to what individuals decide for themselves over what is imposed upon them by an external authority’. In each corruption, in every distortion of Enlightenment thinking drawn out by Todorov, it is this core principle—the autonomy of the individual, from our freedom of conscience to our freedom to decide how to live—which often lies ravaged, effaced by an external authority that knows what’s best for us."

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