Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of the Enlightenment Revisited

Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of the Enlightenment Revisited

Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of the Enlightenment Revisited

Faith in the Enlightenment? The Critique of the Enlightenment Revisited

Excerpt

Light and enlightenment are symbolic of life and salvation. This is true of both Hebrew and Greek thinking. These two streams of thought merge in the Jewish Hellenistic philosopher, Philo. In Neoplatonism, enlightenment and knowledge are closely linked and the term enlightenment refers to a mystical ecstatic contemplation of light. A religious understanding of the symbol of enlightenment is also found in the concept of 'Sophia' in the thinking of Russian Orthodox philosophers such as Solovyov and Florensky.

In the modern period of the West, the term 'enlightenment' is primarily understood as a secular one, generally referring to a period in history sometimes called the 'long eighteenth century' (ca. 1690-1830). The emergence of the natural sciences gave rise in (Western) Europe to a feeling of optimism concerning a better life for mankind, and thus a belief in progress. In this way, 'Enlightenment' became the name for the cultural philosophical, religious, and political program of enlightened philosophers. This program comprises independent thought, criticism, tolerance, and progress, as well as the political translation of these ideals into a new rule of law, free of censorship by church or sovereign, in which the individual is free to express his or her opinion.

In 2004, the European Society for the Philosophy of Religion devoted its periodic conference to the Enlightenment and Religion, 'enlightenment' being understood in its modern meaning: the Enlightenment as a historical period and a program. How is the project of the Enlightenment continued? What alternatives are there in the modern day to the thinking of the Enlightenment? Are there also postEnlightenment examples of thinking determined by the philosophy of religion? The present volume comprises the papers presented at the conference regarding enlightenment and religion; these contributions have been reworked in the light of the lively discussions at the conference and subsequent comments from the editors. Although many more themes could have been included, the editors were of the opinion . . .

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