Enlightenment And Peter Gay In The 1960's

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The definition of Enlightenment has been debated ever since the creation of the term; it was difficult for contemporaries to define ‘Enlightenment ‘, so much so that in 1783 the Berlin magazine Berlinische Monattsschrift, set up a prize competition for the best answer to the question ‘What is Enlightenment?’ In the December 1784 publication, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant responded to the question with his now famous 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 the shackles of superstition and self-incurred tutelage; he epitomises this process with the Latin phrase “sapere aude” (dare to know). Kant’s summary …show more content…

From the pioneering but limited view of Peter Gay in the 1960s, through to the breaking of these limitations by his successors, this essay will examine the change in historiographical approaches to the study of Enlightenment since the 1960s, which shifted towards viewing the Enlightenment within a national, social, and cultural context that was disseminated through popular culture and the public …show more content…

The philosophes, he adds, “pensioned, petted, and completely integrated into high society.” Darnton instead attempts to examine the social history of the Enlightenment, and the relations between the 'high' and 'low' Enlightenments. He proposes that new sources and methodology must be approached in order to enable historians to locate the Enlightenment within a geographical and social context. Most eighteenth-century books, as Darnton shows, were not written by ‘great minds’; ideas were more increasingly thought to be transmitted in pamphlets, newspapers, by commercial writers, and discussed in salons, clubs and societies. For the literate public, at least, the widespread availability of printed material enabled ideas to travel with speed particularly in towns and cities. This view has acuminated in the views of recent historians such as Carla Hesse, who have discussed how print culture and the ease of communication affected the transmission of ideas; she states

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