During the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, Scotland and England produced such well-known figures as David Hume, Adam Smith, and John Locke. Ireland's contribution to this revolution in Western thought has received much less attention. Offering a corrective to the view that Ireland was intellectually stagnant during this period, The Irish Enlightenment considers a range of artists, writers, and philosophers who were full participants in the pan-European experiment that forged the modern world.
Michael Brown explores the ideas and innovations percolating in political pamphlets, economic and religious tracts, and literary works. John Toland, Francis Hutcheson, Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley, Edmund Burke, Maria Edgeworth, and other luminaries, he shows, participated in a lively debate about the capacity of humans to create a just society. In a nation recovering from confessional warfare, religious questions loomed large. How should the state be organized to allow contending Christian communities to worship freely? Was the public confession of faith compatible with civil society? In a society shaped by opposing religious beliefs, who is enlightened and who is intolerant?
The Irish Enlightenment opened up the possibility of a tolerant society, but it was short-lived. Divisions concerning methodological commitments to empiricism and rationalism resulted in an increasingly antagonistic conflict over questions of religious inclusion. This fracturing of the Irish Enlightenment eventually destroyed the possibility of civilized, rational discussion of confessional differences. By the end of the eighteenth century, Ireland again entered a dark period of civil unrest whose effects were still evident in the late twentieth century.
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About the Author
Michael Brown is Chair of Irish, Scottish and Enlightenment History at the University of Aberdeen.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Locating the Irish Enlightenment 1
Part 1 The Religious Enlightenment, 1688-ca. 1730
1 The Presbyterian Enlightenment and the Nature of Man 23
2 The Anglican Enlightenment and the Nature of God 60
3 The Catholic Enlightenment and the Nature of Law 106
Part 2 The Social Enlightenment, ca. 1730-ca. 1760
4 Languages of Civility 161
5 The Enlightened Counter Public 210
6 Communities of Interest 252
Part 3 The Political Enlightenment, ca. 1760-1798
7 A Culture of Trust? 307
8 Fracturing the Irish Enlightenment 345
9 An Enlightened Civil War 405
Conclusion: Ireland's Missing Modernity 459