Conceptions of the Enlightenment

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Conceptions of Enlightenment is a one-day conference concluding in a public lecture at 5pm. The lecture will be delivered by Dennis Rasmussen (Tufts University, Boston), author of The Pragmatic Enlightenment (CUP, 2014).

Over the last century, historians and philosophers have used the term ‘Enlightenment’ in diverse ways. Was it primarily a philosophical movement, or did it involve a much wider change of outlook and sensibility in the course of the eighteenth century? Did its origins and centre lie in England, the Netherlands, France, or Scotland? Did it establish the human rights and freedoms we now value, or did it in practice subject humanity to rigidly rational systems of control? Did it give a voice to women and colonial subjects, or did it reinforce male domination and European hegemony over the rest of the world? Did it prepare the way for the French Revolution and the Reign of terror, or is its heritage to be found in the American Declaration of Independence?

To discuss such questions, a number of leading scholars of the Enlightenment will introduce the work of some of the historians and philosophers who have been most influential in shaping this much-debated concept.



10.30: Arrival and welcome

11.00-1.00: first session, chaired by John Robertson (University of Cambridge)

11.00: Ritchie Robertson (University of Oxford), ‘Ernst Cassirer

11.40: Ben Morgan (University of Oxford), ‘Horkheimer and Adorno

12.20: Judith Still (University of Nottingham), ‘Michelle Le Doeuff

1.00-1.40: Buffet lunch

1.40-4.00: Second session, chaired by Nicholas Cronk (University Oxford)

1.40: Professor Laurence Brockliss (University of Oxford), ‘Peter Gay

2.20: Marian Hobson (Queen Mary, London), ‘Margaret Jacob

3.00: Adam Sutcliffe (King’s College London), ‘Jonathan Israel

3.40: Closing comments by John Robertson

4.00: Tea

5.00: Public lecture by Dennis Rasmussen (Tufts University, Boston) author of The Pragmatic Enlightenment (CUP, 2014): ‘The Pragmatic Enlightenment and Other Enlightenments

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Contact name: Kelsey Rubin-Detlev
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all