The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment

by Roy Porter

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780333454145
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Publication date: 08/15/1996
Series: Studies in European History
Edition description: Older Edition
Pages: 106
Product dimensions: 6.36(w) x 0.23(h) x 8.54(d)

About the Author

ROY PORTER sometime Professor in the Social History of Medicine at the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London. He has written widely on the history of medicine, psychiatry and the Enlightenment. His recent books include Doctor of Society: Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late Enlightenment England (1991), London: A Social History (1994) and 'The Greatest Benefit to Mankind': A Medical History of Humanity (1997).

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What was the Enlightenment? By Roy Porter

Just over two hundred years ago, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote an essay entitled 'Was ist Aufklärung?' ('What is Enlightenment?'). For Kant, enlightenment was mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error. He believed this process of mental liberation was actively at work in his own lifetime. The advancement of knowledge - understanding of Nature, but human self-knowledge no less - would propel this great leap forward. 'Sapere aude' ('dare to know') was Kant's watchword, taken from the Roman poet Horace.


1. Practically all the key Enlightenment thinkers were, indeed, male. For the role of women in the Enlightenment see below, Chapter 7.
2. Though it is only the final ambiguity of a deeply ambiguous book that Voltaire's phrase may also have a largely private meaning: we must mind our own business.
—From The Enlightenment by Roy Porter. (c) 2001, Palgrave USA used by permission

Table of Contents

Introduction and Acknowledgements.- What Was the Enlightenment?.- The Goal: A Science of Man.- The Politics of Enlightenment.- Reforming Religion by Reason.- Who Was the Enlightenment?.- Unity or Diversity?.- Movement or Mentalité?.- Conclusion: Did the Enlightenment Matter?.- Reading Suggestions.- Index.

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Reviews of the first edition:

'Roy Porter provides an entertaining, vigorous and accessible discussion of a concept that can easily appear hopelessly confusing, if not entirely elusive.' - Derek Beales, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

'This volume may confidently be recommended to its intended audience. Books of this kind are the hardest of all to write, and not all experts wear their learning lightly enough to succeed. Roy Porter does, and is cordially to be thanked.' - Alan P.F. Sell, Aberystwyth and Lampeter University School of Theology

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