Gay streeft - in aansluiting op al het nieuwe bronnenmateriaal - naar een genuanceerde interpretatie van de Verlichting, naar een synthese die de complexiteit erkent en toch eenheid laat zien. Etiketten als 'eeuw van de rede' helpen niet want verbergen die complexiteit: je snapt dan het vitalisme van Diderot of de passie van Rousseau of het scepticisme van Hume niet meer. Ook wil hij er het sociale / culturele klimaat van de tijd bij betrekken: hij schrijft niet alleen ideeëngeschiedenis, maar ook sociale geschiedenis. Hoofdkenmerken: kritiek op de erfenis van het Christendom, maar ook emancipatie van het denken uit de Oudheid.
"For the last half century or more, intellectual historians, students of literature, and political theorists have worked to restore the Enlightenment to its true stature, to rescue it from its admirers nearly as much as from its detractors. They have published authoritative editions of major texts, discovered new documents, and compiled exhaustive, accurate, often supremely revealing collections of the philosophes’ correspondence. And they have not rested content with this essential but technical labor; they have been angry. Ever since the fulminations of Burke and the denunciations of the German Romantics, the Enlightenment has been held responsible for the evils of the modern age, and much scorn has been directed at its supposed superﬁcial rationalism, foolish optimism, and irresponsible Utopianism. Compared to these distortions, more superﬁcial, foolish, and irresponsible than the failings they claim to castigate, the amiable caricature drawn by liberal and radical admirers of the Enlightenment has been innocuous: the naiveté of the Left has been far outweighed by the malice of the Right. Still, like the conservative view, the liberal view of the Enlightenment remains unsatisfactory and calls for revision. And so scholars have tumed to polemics. l have had my share in these polemics, especially against the Right, and I must confess that I have enjoyed them. But the time is ready and the demand urgent to move from polemics to synthesis."(xi)
[Gay maakt meteen duidelijk waar hij staat. Hij is dus niet een van die mensen die de Verlichting koppelt aan alle latere ellende van het fascisme en stalinisme, hij vindt de conservatieve rechtse opvattingen hierover bepaald schadelijker dan het utopische denken van Verlichtingsfilosofen. Ik vind dat mooi: misschien is Links naïef in zijn dromen over een betere samenleving, Rechts is gewoonweg boosaardig in zijn kritiek daarop.]
"The men of the Enlightenment united on a vastly ambitious program, a program of secularism, humanity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom, above all, freedom in its many forms - freedom from arbitrary power, freedom of speech, freedom of trade, freedom to realize one’s talents, freedom of aesthetic response, freedom, in a word, of moral man to make his own way in the world. In 1784, when the Enlightenment had done most of its work, Kant deﬁned it as man’s emergence from his self—imposed tutelage, and offered as its motto Sapere aude—“Dare to know”: take the risk of discovery, exercise the right of unfettered criticism, accept the loneliness of autonomy."(3)
De mensen binnen de 'famile van philosophes' waren het absoluut niet altijd eens en rolden af en toe - bij wijze van spreken - zelfs vechtend over straat, maar uiteindelijk kwamen ze toch altijd voor elkaar op wanneer er positie gekozen moest worden voor de vrijheid tegenover een oppositie (de kerk, de staat) die deze wilde aantasten. Alleen de verhouding met Rousseau was nogal dubbelzinnig.
"the philosophes argued for a positive appreciation of sensuality and despised asceticism. But these preachers of libertinism were far less self-indulgent, far more restrained in their habits, than their pronouncements would lead us to believe."(8)
Het door Gay gebruikte woord 'pagan' (heidens) verwijst daarom ook meer naar de affiniteit die de denkers van de Verlichting hadden met de klassieke oudheid. Het woord 'philosophe' toont dat het Verlichtingsdenken allereerst een Franse aangelegenheid was, met Parijs als het centrum. Maar er bestond ook grote bewondering voor Engeland en Holland. Er was werkelijk sprake van kosmopolitisme.
[Interessant is dat er blijkbaar toen al sprake was van internationale netwerken van communicatie tussen al die intellectuelen in Frankrijk, Italië, Duitsland, Engeland, Schotland, Holland, Rusland, en zo verder. Hoe zat dat netwerk in elkaar? Hoe raakten ze van elkaars denken en acties op de hoogte? Er werd gereisd, men ontmoette elkaar op plaatsen in de stad - de koffiehuizen, etc. -, men schreef brieven, men publiceerde in kranten en tijdschriften, bracht boeken uit. Toch zou ik het conceter willen hebben. ]
"The typical philosophe, then, was a cultivated man, a respectable scholar and scientiﬁc amateur. The most distinguished among the little ﬂock were academics like Kant, Lichtenberg, and Adam Smith, or men of letters like Diderot and Lessing and Galiani, who possessed an erudition a professor might envy. Some of the philosophes were in fact more than amateurs in natural philosophy. Franklin, D’Alembert, Maupertuis, Lichtenberg, and Buffon first achieved reputations as scientists before they acquired notoriety as philosophes. Others, like Voltaire, advanced the cause of scientiﬁc civilization with their skillful popularizations of Newton’s discoveries."(14)
Het Verlichtingsdenken had daarom een stedelijke omgeving als voedingsbodem.
"The Enlightenment, then, was the work of three overlapping, closely associated generations. The first of these, dominated by Montesquieu and the long-lived Voltaire, long set the tone for the other two; it grew up while the writings of Locke and Newton were still fresh and controversial, and did most of its great work before 1750. The second generation reached maturity in mid-century: Franklin was born in 1706, Buﬁon in 1707, Hume in 1711, Rousseau in 1712, Diderot in 1713. Condillac in 1714, Helvétius in I715, and d’Alembert in 1717. It was these writers who fused the fashionable anticlericalism and scientific speculations of the first generation into a coherent modern view of the world. The third generation, the generation of Holbach and Beccaria, of Lessing and Jefferson, of Wieland, Kant, and Turgot, was close enough to the second, and to the survivors of the first, to be applauded, encouraged, and irritated by both. It moved into scientiﬁc mythology and materialist metaphysics, political economy, legal reform, and practical politics. Criticism progressed by criticizing itself and its own works. So the Enlightenment displays not merely coherence but a distinct evolution, a continuity in styles of thinking as well as a growing radicalism."(17)
Over de relatie tussen de verlichters en de massa die blind en doof was voor alle nieuwe inzichten en de nieuwe ideeën : "the realm of Stupidity, Christianity & Ignorance" zoals Hume het uitdrukte. Toch was het geestelijke / culturele / wewtenschappelijke klimaat gunstig voor de philosophes en was er ook reden voor optimisme. De tegenstellingen tussen de philosophes en anderen waren simpelweg vaak niet zo groot als ze suggereerden: ze waren en bleven mensen uit de maatschappelijke bovenlaag; tegenstanders hielden zich vaak net zo gied met hun ideeën bezig, en zo verder. De situatie was genuanceerd en complex en niet zwart-wit.
"They were right to think of themselves as modern, secular philosophers, wrong to claim that they owed their Christian culture nothing. In politics, their false consciousness took rather a different form. Far from dividing their age into two hostile camps, the philosophes cultivated their connections with power, and their cozy fraternizing with the enemy cost them heavily. It distorted their tactics, long circumscribed their freedom of action, sometimes seduced them into intellectual dishonesty, and blurred their radicalism, not only for others but for themselves as well."(24)
"The intellectual revolution over which the Enlightenment presided pointed to the abolition of hierarchy as much as to the abolition of God. But most of the philosophes found much to cherish in the existing order. It is revealing that Rousseau (and we must always come back to Rousseau when we wish to emphasize the complexity of the Enlightenment), perhaps the only Encyclopedist with moods in which he totally rejected his civilization, was treated as a madman by other philosophes long before his clinical symptoms became obtrusive. All this does not mean that the philosophes were merely opportunists. They were radicals, even if they were not nihilists."(25)
"Their gingerly treatment of the masses, which became less patronizing as the century went on, reveals their attachment to the old order and their fear of too drastic an upheaval."(26)
"There were many men like Barbier, nominal Christians who quoted the Dictionnaire philosophique, cried over the Nouvelle Héloïse, objected to the imprisonment of Diderot, welcomed Lessing’s Masonic writings, applauded the banishment of the Jesuits, practiced the new empiricism, embraced the new critical spirit, and in general found something attractive in the philosophes’ paganism and something exciting in the philosophes' hope."(26-27)
De philosophes hielden er een dualistische kijk op de geschiedenis op na - als een historisch conflict tussen rede en onrede, tussen verstand en wetenschap van de ene kant en mythe en bijgeloof van de andere kant.
"In general, barbarism and religion had dominated the past, but a few glorious ages testified to the possibility that reason might not merely be the critic but the master of civilization."(33)
"As the Enlightenment saw it, the world was, and had always been divided between ascetic, superstitious enemies of the ﬂesh, and men who afﬁmied life, the body, knowledge, and generosity; between mythmakers and realists, priests and philosophers. Heinrich Heine, wayward son of the Enlightenment, would later call these parties, most suggestively, Hebrews and Hellenes. This conﬂict between two irreconcilable pattems of life, thought and feeling, divided historical periods internally; it also divided them from one another. Each era had a dominant style, with either reason or superstition in control, but the philosophes insisted that this dominance was merely the temporary ascendancy of one combatant over the other: few periods in history were without their admixture of reason or superstition—the darkest, most primitive ages had their philosophers, the most brilliant ages of reason and cultivation were infected by the survivals of old, or the seeds of new superstitions."(33)
"The historians of the Enlightenment, then, did much. They did not do everything because they could not do everything, but at least they freed history from the parochialism of Christian scholars and from theological presuppositions, secularized the idea of causation and opened vast new territories for historical inquiry. They went beyond tedious chronology, endless research into sacred documents, and single-minded hagiography, and imposed rational, critical methods of study on social, political, and intellectual developments. As the organizing principle of Enlightenment historiography, the fourfold periodic scheme therefore shares its excellences as much as its shortcomings. Its most glaring and most notorious defect was its unsympathetic, often brutal, estimate of Christianity; yet it achieved the rudimentary recognition that historical epochs have a prevailing mental style which informs their science, their morals, their whole way of seeing the world; that the spectrum of available styles may be divided into two kinds, the mythmaking or religious and the critical or scientiﬁc; and ﬁnally, that history has discontinuities as well as continuities, dramatic revolutions as well as slow changes."(37)
Dit zou beter overgekomen zijn bij tijdgenoten wanneer de philosophes niet zo enorm in de contramine waren geweest en minder met denigrerende waardeoordelen waren gekomen over die historische zaken die hen niet bevielen. Desondanks: het was een stap vooruit in historisch begrip.
Veel mensen die hoger onderwijs genoten hadden konden Latijn en Grieks lezen. Latijn speelde in de 18e eeuw nog steeds een belangrijke rol in het intellectuele verkeer. Het klassieke erfgoed was overal aanwezig.
"Men of fashion and grave statesmen agreed that to know the classics helped to know the eighteenth century"(41)
Het zich losmaken van en daarna het bestrijden van het Christendom was voor de philosophes een enorme stap, omdat ze als het ware de tak doorzaagden waarop ze zaten. En dat gold niet alleen voor de Duitse denkers als Reimarus, Lessing of Wieland, maar ook voor de Franse en Britse philosophes als Diderot en Hume.
"The dialectic of their experience—the tense interplay of admired antiquity, hated Christianity, and emerging modernity—deﬁnes both their supreme crisis of identity and its resolution. After all, the most militant battle cry of the Enlightenment, écrasez l’infâme, was directed against Christianity itself, against Christian dogma in all its forms, Christian institutions, Christian ethics, and the Christian view of man, but the philosophes had been born into a Christian world and kept many of their Christian friends. Inevitably this produced conﬂicts, both conscious and unconscious: the philosophes boasted that they were making all things new, but far from wholly discarding their Christian inheritance, they repressed, and retained, more than they knew."(59)
"To embrace materialism or even deism was to defy strong and persuasive pressures, to reject a rich, well-entrenched heritage, to make a deliberate choice - the choice of freedom.(...) But at the same time, this freedom imposed its burdens on the philosophes, burdens obscurely felt rather than clearly articulated, burdens of guilt, of uncertainty, of sheer fright at the uncharted territory before them."(60)
"The primacy of Greece [bij de philosophes - GdG] meant the primacy of philosophy, and the primacy of philosophy made nonsense of the claim that religion was man's central concern."(72)
Dit was iets waarover alle philosophes het eens waren, ondanks alle andere meningsverschillen. Uiteraard sloten ze daar aan bij de Renaissance en het Humanisme. Kerkgeschiedenis en wereldlijke geschiedenis werden twee heel verschillende dingen. Behalve bij mensen als Bossuet die de oude aanpak bleven hanteren.
"Bossuet was a brilliant and triumphant anachronism. His historical work lies across the philosophes' path, an obstacle, a problem - and a stimulus - to their philosophy of history, as Pascal was to their philosophy of man."(75)
[Vgl. de kritiek op Bossuet die nu volgt eens met de lofzangen van Voegelin ...]
De Griekse cultuur werd - in de vergelijking met de voorgaande culturen - ook wel geïdealiseerd en eenzijdig of zelfs verkeerd geïnterpreteerd. Socrates was een held.
"Yet even Socrates, despite his heroic stature, could not fully embody the Greek revolution for the Enlightenment. The Greek intellect had looked in two directions - outward: to nature, pbjective universal law - in a word, to science; and inward: to self-knowledge, inner clarity - in a word, to morality."(81)
Er zaten bij de philosophes dus nogal wat lacunes in de kennis van de Klassieke Oudheid, maar dat werd ruimschoots goed gemaakt door hun enthousiasme en (zelf)kritische instelling tegenover wat ze wel wisten. Ze waren genuanceerd over het mythische denken.
"All through the century, the philosophes deplored the gaps in their information."(87)
"The mythopoeic mind could not achieve Sachlichkeit - objectivity - both because it was incapable of dealing with experiences coolly, quantitatively, and because it could not experience objecys as objects.(90-91)"(90-91)
"Indeed, for all these changes, the myths always retained their aversion to analysis and their anthropomorphism: they continued to explain the unknown by the known and to populate the universe with beings resembling the believers themselves."(92)
"As the philosophes saw rightly, if a little simplistically, the veil could be pierced only by the organized habit of asking questions, by systematic criticism. It was left to the Greeks to codify that habit, and to the Romans to impose it on the world."(94)
Merkwaardig genoeg ontleenden de philosophes hun ideeën vooral aan Romeinse Stoici, Romeinse Epicuriërs, Romeinse Eclectici en pas indirect aan de Grieken. Waarom speelde Rome zo'n grote rol? Omdat ze daarmee dicht bij de alledaagse praktijk bleven (Romeins recht etc.) en bij de intellectuele (waar nog lang Latijn gesproken werd). Bovendien was de Romeine cultuur toch doordesemd met de Griekse.
"Horace was right: while the great Mediterranean Empire was held together by Roman soldiers, it was nourished by Greek ideas. (...) Yet it was Greek with a difference; it was Greek made plain. Much like the philosophes of the eighteenth century, Roman literati gave their best talents to explicating, disseminating, and in the proces vulgarizing, difficult philosophical ideas."(96)
Met name Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus eigenlijk) en Cicero waren populair bij de philosophes. Van Lucretius werd De Rerum Natura gelezen waarin wetenschap wordt aangeprezen als dé manier om vrijheid en innerlijke rust te bereiken en religie fanatiek wordt bestreden.
"Lucretius was awake to the paradox haunting his assault on all accepted forms of worship. If religion is so pernicious, if it drives men to greed and barbarous cruelty, why is it so widespread? If the Epicurean solution of the religious problem is man's only cure for this oppressive curse, why is it so unpopular?"(102)
Dat heeft met onwetendheid te maken en daarom is wetenschap de echte kuur voor religie en bijgeloof. Het was vooral ook de sfeer die Lucretius uitstraalde die de philosophes enthousisast voor hem maakte. Cicero (ook wel 'Tullius' in de wandelgangen) was zo mogelijk nog meer populair omdat hij ook nog een filosofie, een ideaal van humanitas bood.
"The man who practiced humanitas was confident of his worth, courteous to others, decent in his social conduct, and active in his political role. He was a man, moreover, who faced life with courageous skepticism; he knows that the consolations of popular religion are for more credulous beings than himself, that life is uncertain, and that sturdy pessimism is superior to self-deceptive optimism."(107)
Met name van invloed waren Cicero's boeken De Natura Deorum, De Divinatione en De Officiis. Andere Romeinse auteurs die populair waren bij de philosophes: Catullus, en de Augustiijnen Ovidius, Livius, Vergilius en Horatius, later Seneca, Lucanus, Petronius, Quintilianus, Statius en Martialis. Na de terreur Plinius, Suetonius, Tacitus en Juvenalis.
De Romeinse Verlichting liep van 50vC tot 150nC. Na 150nC kwam het bijgeloof weer op, onder andere door Oosterse invloeden (mysteriegodsdiensten o.a.).
"It seemed as though the traditional choice offered by the great philosophers - the life of reason, responsibility, autonomy, and freedom from dependence on myth - was too strenuous, or too frightening, for the world of the Roman Empire, a world marked by severe social dislocation, the disappearance of local loyalties, the devastating contrasts of shameless luxiry with abject poverty, and perhaps worst of all, the insurmountable separation of a narrow elite from the masses, crude in their beliefs, brutal in their conduct of life, childlike in their dependence on irrational powers. The philosophers did not deign to educate the believers, and in time the believers overwhelmed the philosophers.
This formula, like all formulas, is too neat to account for the failure of nerve among the cultivated in the second and third centuries. There was much enterprise left, and some good thinking. Some philosophers proudly resisted the barbarization of their culture and the dilution of their rationalist heritage; but others converted their philosophy into authoritarian dogmas or ecstatic experiences, seeking in it certainty and salvation rather than intellectual clarity and the opportunity for continued questioning. This was, perhaps, the most threatening symptom of all: the blending of religion and philosophy."(118-119)
Auteurs in deze periode die door de philosophes bewonderd werden: Plutarchus, Lucianus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.
"For the Enlightenment, then, the organized habit of criticism was the most far-reaching invention of classical antiquity."(121)
Maar die kritische houding kon bij zowel de oude auteurs als bij de verlichtingsdenkers regelmatig samengaan met mythische en religeuze elementen (denk aan de Deïsten van de 18e eeuw).
De philosophes zagen zichzelf ook werkelijk als filosoof en schreven zichzelf een belangrijke taak toe.
"In insisting on the philosopher's autonomy, Kant was not merely arguing in behalf of his guild. It was clear to Kant - and his popular essays were designed to make it clear to a larger public - that the philosopher's freedom is the precondition for universal freedom. Man's search for autonomy is impeded by laziness, cowardice, all the accumulated weight of tradition, and it is the philosopher alone, reasoning without alien constraints and criticizing without fear, who initiated and leads the great struggle for liberation."(130)
"By identifying philosophy with criticism, the Enlightenment raised serious doubts about the value of metaphysics.(...) The more impetuous among the philosophes degraded the term into an imprecise word of abuse, a synonym for pretentious meddling with the unknowable. In fact, Enlightenment wits - and the Enlightenment was full of wits - denigrated metaphysics with such abandon that the more responsible members of the little flock gradually drew back from this reckless positivsm."(132-133)
[Let op: ook hier waarden op de achtergrond: 'the more responsible', 'reckless''. Waarom schrijft Gay dat? Later op 134 noemt hij philosophes die doorsloegen in het bedrijven van wetenschappelijke experimenten, een 'hasty empiricism', met de wens snelle resultaten te boeken, met weinig oog voor theorie, met weinig diepgang, met wantrouwen tegen hele speculatieve systemen. Maar toch blijft hier de waardering wat vaag toegelicht. Deels werd het afwijzing van slechte metafysica, het zoeken naar algemene principes werd door Kant, Hume en Condillac - de filosofisch geschoolden - niet opgegeven.]
"Hume's distinction between useful and pernicious metaphysics corresponds in all particulars to the distinction made by Condillac [in Traité des Systêmes - GdG] and d'Alembert [Discours Preliminaire - GdG] between between l'esprit systématique and l'esprit de système."(139)
"The philosophes' glorification of criticism and their qualified repudiation of metaphysics make it obvious that the Enlightenment was not an Age of Reason but a Revolt against Rationalism. This revolt took two closely related forms: it rejected the assertion that reason is the sole, or even the dominant, spring of action; and it denied that all mysteries in the world can be penetrated by inquiry. The claim for the omnicompetence of criticism was in no way a claim for the omnipotence of reason. It was a political demand for the right to question everything, rather than the assertion that all could be known or mastered by rationality. This demand is a pervasive theme in the philosophes' tactical statements."(141)
[Dit vind ik een heel interessante opmerking. Ze hebben de ratio niet overschat, zoals zo veel postmodernen bewweren. Je kunt gewoon niet volhouden dat de excessen van Hitler en Stalin terug te voeren zijn op de rationele pretenties van de Verlichtingsdenkers want die wezen dezelfde pretenties ook af. Wel was die zelfbeweerde bescheidenheid soms alleen maar een woord en ging het er in de praktijk heel wat anders aan toe.]
"D'Alembert, Voltaire, Kant, and others, in the same words and with the same energy, reiterated that if critics could not criticize everything, they might as well criticize nothing; and they identified politics and religion (as Swift had identified them long before in A Tale of a Tub) as the two areas most sensitive to criticism and, for that very reason, most in need of it."(141-142)
"The philosophes, whether they were materialists or deists, were what we might call secular ﬁdeists. Like Christian fideists, they sought for the limits of reason, but their discoveries had opposite effects. The Christians translated man’s invincible ignorance into the demand for unconditional obedience to God and into subjection to suprarational sources of information: revelation, mystical experience, or the tradition of the Church. The philosophes, on the other hand, while they might bring to the unknown some respect for its very vastness, treated it mainly as a warning against excessive pride and as a target for their derisive wit. The very titles of their books (as harmless today as they must have been offensive then) implicitly argue that it is precisely in the dim reaches of the unknown that crafty priests and clever princes have found their charms and enchanted the world. In 1691 the Dutch pastor Balthasar Bekker had attacked the widespread belief in the devil with his De betooverte Wereld-—The Enchanted World, and ﬁve years later John Toland had published his first deist tract under the title Christianity not Mysterious. This tone echoes through the eighteenth century: Voltaire wrote a philosophical dictionary; Hume, a natural history of religion; Raynal, a philosophical history of European expansion in the Indies; Kant, an essay on religion within the limits of reason alone; Holbach, a whole system of nature. For all their philosophical modesty, the philosophes were conﬁdent that it was their calling to break the great spell."(145)
De philosophes konden het beste overweg met allerlei vormen van eclecticisme, als symbool voor hun intellectuele onafhankelijkheid en voorliefde voor diversiteit en dialoog. Ze wilden niet bij een bepaalde school horen. En het eclecticisme vormde een perfect wapen in de strijd tegen het dogmatische Christendom.
"Relativism, Eclecticism, and toleration are so intimately related that they cannot be strictly separated even in thought. Relativism is a way of looking at the world, the recognition that no single set of convictions has absolute validity; Eclecticism is the philosophical method consequent on relativism - since no system has the whole truth, and most systems have some truth, discriminating selection among systems is the only valid procedure. Toleration, finally, is the political counterpart of this world view and this method: it is a policy for a large and varied society."(163)
[Hm, dat vind ik wel een beetje erg gemakkelijk gesteld.]
"It was only to be expected that the policy of toleration and the associated idea of cultural relativism should have their opponents. The strains of social change and the swamping of old faiths brought protests from conservatives fearful of losing the world they had known."(167)
"The philosophes were realists in that they took the material for their activity from the concrete experience of daily existence and continually returned to that existece for refreshment and confirmation"(178)
"I call the Enlightenment's realism moral because whatever channel of expression it used - anticlerical mockery or political polemics - its vital center was a moral vision of the world."(179)
Ze wilden praktisch bezig zijn, hun denken moest tot actie leiden.
"Polemicists like Condorcet ... tried to do nothing less than to make a revolution in politics, economics, and social relations. The philosophes' action ranged from Adam Smith's theoretical lectures on politics and Lessing's lyrical advocacy of toleration, to Holbach's fierce anti-Chirtianity and Voltaire's frenetic campaign against l'infâme."(181)
"Hand and intellect, technology and philosophy, separated since the Greeks, were now finding common ground in the utilization of science for the sake of improving man's lot."(183)
"Like the philosophers of antiquity, therefore, the philosophes found it impossible to separate their inquiries into nature from their inquiries into morality, and their inquiries into morality from their inquiries into human nature. Control of the outside world and the inner man depended on a rational understanding of both, and this understanding in turn depended on a clear definition of the sphere—in fact, of the very nature—of action. Whatever the universal, unchanging component of man’s nature, that nature deﬁned itself for its time and its culture through its particular activity. The philosophes, generally tied to the rhetoric of natural law, did not put it quite so simply, but they came to recognize that man is what he does, and comes to know what he is by discovering himself in action: “I love wisdom in evidence,” wrote Diderot, “like the athlete in the arena: the strong man recognizes himself only on the occasions that he has to show his power.”“ In myth, man’s ignorance of himself and his world is veiled by extravagance; man feigns self-knowledge by drawing plausible but false inferences. What the philosophes rather harshly called the “destruction of superstition” was the unmasking of these inferences—the critical mind took it upon itself to show that the course of the stars has no inﬂuence on human lives, or that a few words or gestures do not alter the regular rhythms of nature. In magical thinking, mind is inhabited by a demon and the world is constantly, bewilderingly, alive; in philosophy, the demon is exorcised and the confusion is reduced to law. Magical thinking is an ever-repeated yet ever-futile attempt to control anxietyproducing situations; the control exercised by scientiﬁc thinking acts to remove the very sources of the anxiety itself."(185)
"In the Enlightenment, as in Rome, the varieties of philosophy narrowed to the sharp point of the search for right thought that would support right action. The link that made the relation of theory to practice rational rather than fortuitous was ethics; the link that made it generally available was rhetoric."(190)
"Candide comes to reject the metaphysical system called "optimism", not by discovering an opposing metaphysical system, but by allowing life to act upon him. He moves from the greedy, heedless, childish pleasure principle to the acceptance of reality."(199)
"In the late 1750's when he wrote Candide, Voltaire still defined action as thoughtful resignation to reality; a few years later, after and partly through Candide, resignation gave way to tireless polemical action - just as the Enlightenment itself was moving toward overt and bellicose radicalism."(200)
"Change can come from recognition of limits and concentration on realities - this is the moral of the famous last sentence: Cela est bien dit, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin. (...)
Only Pangloss is incurable: the madness of metaphysics is too deeply ingrained to be exorcised by the realities around him, or by his own sufferings. But to his involved logical chains of argument in behalf of optimism, Candide opposes the brief, wise sentence, 'That's well said, but we must cultivate our garden.' Here, in that concluding sentence of the tale, Voltaire has fused the lessons of ancient philosophy into a presciption: Men are thrown into the world to suffer and to dominate their suffering. Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats; life is a desert, but we can transform our corner into a garden. Talk is entertaining, but it is useful only when it directs us to our duties and possibilities, since action is irresponsible without a clear conception of duty and unrealistic without a fair appreciation of our possibilities. It is the task of philosophy to discover, as the Stoics said long ago, what is within our power and what is beyond it. Candide is thus a morality tale in the most concrete sense possible: it teaches, by example, the supremacy of realistic moral thinking."(201-202)
Begint met een beschrijving van de geschiedenis van het Christendom zoals de philosophes die zagen.
"This, with minor variations, is the Enlightenment's view of the Middle Ages. I need hardly say that it is a caricature, a tendentious misreading of massive evidence: two centuries of scholarship have exposed the philosophes’ blindness to the beauty, the learning, and the variety of the Christian millennium. The Encyclopédie printed several relatively sympathetic articles about medieval customs; historians like Dubos, Turgot, and Voltaire carefully differentiated periods within the Middle Ages and brought themselves to say some good words for medieval institutions. They conceded that Christianity had triumphed because other cults had failed. They found exceptional personages, like Emperor Frederick II, whom they could praise for their learning and their tolerance—in a word, for anticipating the Enlightenment; Condorcet noted that Frederick—the very emperor whom Dante had placed into the sixth circle of hell—had been “suspected of being what the priests of our eighteenth century have come to call a ‘philosophe.’ And Condorcet, for all his fanatical deprecation of the Middle Ages, also conceded that the Scholastics had done much for “sound philosophy.” And so, with majestic condescension, Gibbon allowed that “the darkness of the middle ages exhibits some scenes not unworthy of our notice.”"(209)
"Christianity was more dramatic and less crude than the prevailing superstitions; more attractive and less pessimistic than the prevailing philosophies. In later centuries, too, Christianity was a far more constructive, far more civilizing force than the philosophes were willing to admit."(209)
Veel critici verwijten de philosophes daarom vooroordeel en zo verder, maar zien de essentie over het hoofd van waarvoor ze stonden.
"the Middle Ages were different in vital essence from the ages that preceded and followed them. And they were different, above all, because they introduced - or rather reinstated - religious myth as the deepest motive power and final purpose of civilization. The Christians' equivocal reception of classical learning and their demotion of philosophy, significant though they are as contributory causes [voor de overtrokken kritiek van de philosophes - GdG], stand largely as signs or symptoms of that vast transvaluation of values."(212)
"The rigorous prescription implied in Deuteronomy was sometimes ignored, sometimes evaded, and sometimes bent to the uses of an adventurous mind, but in general, pagan poets, pagan philosophers, and pagan gods were shaved, pared, and kept in the house of Christianity to serve a Christian master."(221)
Vergilius, Ovidius en Horatius werden aangepast aan het Christelijke gedachtengoed. Hetzelfde gebeurde met de antieke filosofen als Cicero en Aristoteles.
"Like the poets, therefore, the ancient philosophers were ruthlessly culled, suppressed, and reinterpreted."(224)
"Medieval Humanists fought stout battles for classical letters, and won important skirmishes against rigorists and mystics. But while they held grimly on to the ramparts of antiquity, they surrendered its citadel - the autonomy of critical thought."(226)
[Maar dat is dus vanuit het Verlichtingsdenken precies het punt: hoe welwillend sommige Christenen ook stonden tegenover bepaalde klassieke auteurs - dat gebeurde altijd vanuit Christelijke uitgangspunten. Je kon de religie dus alleen maar radicaal aan de kant gooien, ook al kende je de nuances: de kern van religies als het Christendom was immers altijd God die boven de mens gesteld werd en de mens die daardoor zijn autonomie en kritiek en nieuwsgierigheid en wereldlijke idealen moest inleveren. Alles wat de Christenen deden had simpelweg een ander doel dan het Verlichtingsdenken had.]
"This esprit de système [van de scholastici bijvoorbeeld - GdG] run riot, this misplaced rationalism, had some useful consequences: universities were founded, cathedral schools extended learning, and at least a few men began to exercise their minds. Still, real thinking could begin only with the advent of modern science."(228)
"Yet it remains true that philosophy, fro all its independence, was embedded within a religious atmosphere."(234)
"Dante's journey from the Convivio to the Divine Comedy mirrors the retreat from critical thinking that Christian civilization as a whole had undertaken through the centuries. Like Christianity at large, Dante did not surrender his love for thought and continued to use his reason, but he subordinated rationality to higher things. The philosophes could not understand this hierarchy of values, and refused to make any attempt to understand it. For the Enlightenment, as we know, philosophy was autonomous and omnipotent, or it was nothing."(236)
"There were some medieval theologians, notably Thomas Aquinas, who professed to see no conflict between reason and revelation, and who negotiated a peaceful coexistence between philosophy and theology. Yet even the most pacific division of territory remains a division of territory; the most pugnacious of medieval thinkers conceded that there were sacred areas into which they must not, could not step, where faith, revelation, tradition, and ecclesiastical authority gave the orders and offered the answers, where speculation was irrelevant and curiosity an unwelcome intrusion into holy ground."(237)
Ook het Christendom bestreed oude mythen en bijgeloof, had een zekere aandacht voor de realiteit, kende zelfs een zekere mate van wetenschappelijk denken, maar altijd vanuit het perspectief van de versterking van het Christelijke geloof.
"Medieval science was thus doubly teleological: its purpose was knowledge for the sake of God; and its discoveries were discoveries of purposes - God's intentions for His creation."(248)
"The four centuries between 1300 and 1700 are the prehistory of the Enlightenment. (...) These were the centuries that supplied the Enlightenment with its image of the past, both pagan and Christian, its vocabulary, its philosophical method, and much of its program. To be sure, these centuries, for all their enormous contributions to a secular mode of thought, were still overwhelmingly religious; they were still - as the philosophes would have said - in the thrall of the great myth. (...) These were centuries when secular forces first expanded and then exploded whatever unity the Christian millennium had possessed. It was the era of pagan Chistianity."(256)
De Renaissance / het Humanisme is heel vergelijkbaar met het Verlichtingsdenken en niet alleen in de voorliefde voor de klassieke Oudheid (waarvan ze de boeken uit de kloosters meenamen waar de monnikken ze lieten wegrotten en opnieuw uitgaven, vaak gereinigd van Christelijke smetten). Ook in hun eclecticisme en hun morele realisme (goedheid en deugdzaamheid zijn belangrijker dan waarheid en kennis). Namen: Petrarca, Nicolas van Cusa, Marsilio Ficino, Valla, Pico della Mirandola, Erasmus.
Door ontdekkingsreizen, de Reformatie, oorlogen, astronomische ontdekkingen (Copernicus), nieuwe uitvindingen (boekdrukkunst; vertalingen uit het Grieks en Latijn) traden grotre verschuivingen op waarin de mens, de paus en de kerk, het Middellandse Zeegebied niet meer centraal stonden.
"Thus the texture of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century civilization was enriched with a liberal admixture of classical culture."(281)
"To the extent that classical ideas and themes were assimilated into the arts, their sting was drawn. And yet the new economic and political conditions, coupled with the new intellectual situation, exacerbated the malaise in Christian civilization first uncovered - or produced - by the Humanists."(282)
De werken van auteurs uit deze periode - Machiavelli, Montaigne, Pascal, Spinoza, Bayle etc. - werden door de Verlichtingsdenkers gretig gelezen.
"These were important lessons, but important as they were, Machiavelli and the others did more for the philosophes than to teach them how to read. They also transmitted, or at least confirmed, an attitude toward the world, a style of thinking. As the philosophes read their Montaigne and their Lipsius, they found in them the very qualities that had made antiquity so congenial: realism, detachment from myth, intimacy with the life of action, a tendency to prefer ethics to metaphysics, and a hardheaded eclecticism."(284)
Meer over wat de philosophes in Machiavelli en Montaigne en Bayle zagen en over de rol die het Neo-Stoïcijnse denken speelde. Dat laatste kon doordat Seneca en Cicero en Epictetus gezuiverd werden van Christelijke invloeden en opnieuw verschenen resp. vertaald werden.
"Thus, slowly and painfully, European intellectuals developed new instruments for understanding the world and reaching accomodations. Throughout Western civilization there were men - still in a minority, but vocal and often highly placed - who agreed that the road to peace lay in the discovery of a religion catholic in the true sense of that word, a religion anchored in the nature of man rather than in historical or geographic accident, rational in character, with a short catalogue of doctrines expressing universal truths which all sensible human beings could accept."(297-298)
Over Jean Bodin:
"Thus political absolutism and religious toleration, the improbable twins of the modern state system, make their first appearance in the writings of this enigmatic sixteenth-century French lawyer."(298-299)
Ook het Nederlandse Stoïcisme speelde een rol in de personen van Dirck Coornhert, Jacobus Arminius, Hugo Grotius - opvattingen over natuurrecht o.a.-, Justus Lipsius met name.
"While Charron was not a philosophe before his time - he was a priest and a theologian - the values he celebrates, in open deference to his favorite Romans, are the values of the Enlightenment: the supremacy of philosophy and the autonomy of man; the superiority of eclecticism to dogma, of intelligent ignorance to grandiose rationalism, and of practical moral reflection to theoretical speculation."(303)
"By the middle of the seventeenth century, and even more distinctly in the Enlightenment, Stoicism had become a part - an important part, but still only a part - of a comprehensive view of the world which men had come to call libertinism, or freethinking, and which I have called the autonomy of criticism."(303-304)
Vervolgens werkt Gay de rol van het Epicurisme uit, waarvan de ontwikkeling en de opname anders verliep dan die van het Stoïcisme. Lucretius bleef populair, onder andere door de invloed van Pierre Gassendi. Ook de lertijnen uit die tijd - die verder intellectueel gezien niet belangrijk zijn - hadden grote invloed omdat ze de vroomheid belachelijk durfden te maken en het vrijdenken aantrekkelijk. Libertijnen voelden zich thuis bij het Epicurisme. Voorbeeld: Ninon de l'Enclos, Saint Evremond.
"While many of the philosophes' most respected seventeenth-century preceptors rooted their radical philosophies in classical doctrines, there were others, equally respected, who drew their energies from the opposite procedure, the repudiation of antiquity. Impelled by the imperatives of the scientific discipline, excited by new discoveries, new instruments, and the free international commerce of information, the natural philosophers proclaimed themselves new men, pioneers without ancestors, superior to all the ancients. They rejected the very idea of a classic. Intellectual buccaneers who directed their eyes toward the future, toward conquest, they turned to the past only to pillage or to denigrate it."(308-309)
Verder over Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Boyle, Newton. Bacons mengeling van vertrouwen in menselijke mogelijkheden / geloof in de mogelijke verbetering van de menselijke situatie en de overtuiging dat mensen bescheiden en voorzichtig moeten blijven riep bewondering op bij de Verlichtingsdenkers. Maar de 17e eeuw is nog lang niet de 18e eeuw waar het gaat om de attitude tegenover religie: veel van de grote namen (Boyle, Newton, Fontenelle, Locke) waren gelovige mensen.
"Neither Gibbon nor the other philosophes could ever grant that philosophical Christians or Stoic Christians were men with a coherent world view, and it was precisely this failure that freed the Enlightenment from diffidence and made it revolutionary."(320)
De Verlichtingsdenkers erkennen dat ze dingen ontlenen aan 'de oppositie' (met name het heidense Christendom, zoals Gay dat noemt).
"They knew that the dunghill of superstition displayed diamonds of rationality. They did well to recognize this, for their debt in fact was sizable. The culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, divided and enriched by acrimonious controversies, had thrown up rationalist versions of Protestantism and philosophical interpretations of Roman Catholicism which the philosophes could read without hostility and absorb without embarassment, if with some rather drastic amendments. Socinians, Cambridge Platonists, advocates of a universal religion, Christian pacifists - all could be put to use."(324-325)
"no one had thought that Christianity might give way to rationalism until Christians tried to prove that Christianity was reasonable."(326)
Over de Verlichting in Duitsland:
"While we can date the birth of full-fledged deism with spectacular precision, the growth of the Enlightenment in Lutheran and Calvinist soil was a rather subtler affair. Both sects, born in revolution, never wholly lost their capacity for inner renewal. Therefore the gradual elaboration of the naturalist Aufklärung strains the definition of a single Enlightenment, a single philosophic family, to the utmost."(328)
"... while French philosophes leaped into unbelief, their German brethren were seduced into it, step by reluctant step."(331)
Over Lessings Erziehung des Menschengeschlechtes:
"Whatever the philosophical imperfections of the Erziehung - and it is less a triumph of logic than of sweeping rhetoric, the distillation of a poetic, hard-won optimism - its vision is that of a noble rationalism. For all its concern with religious figures and religious experience, it foresees a time when men will act morally not from hope of reward or fear of retribution, not in obedience to higher commands, but from an inner freedom, as autonomous, self-directed ethical beings. (...) It is here [in Das Testament Johannis] that Lessing, for all his stress on Christian love, openly joins the deists of the British and French Enlightenments: the love he calls for is universal, it is the love human beings feel for each other not as children of God, not as brothers in Christ, but as fellow men; a love implicit in Stoic cosmpolitanism, achieved only after man has liberated himself from all sects, including Christianity."(333)
De eeuw van de Verlichting was nog steeds een religieuze eeuw, ook de philosophes wisten dat. Christelijke overtuigingen speelden ook na de Franse Revolutie nog een grote rol.
"In country after country social and political conflicts were still fought out on religious issues, and there were many thousands of educated Europeans, Protestant and Catholic alike, who believed in the efficacy of prayer, the blessings of the monastic life, or the Thirty-Nine Articles. Theological debates retained much of their old vigor and much of their popularity. To speak of secularization, therefore, is to speak of a subtle shift of attention: religious institutions and religious explanations of events were slowly being displaced from the center of life to its periphery."(338)
"The real source of trouble, hard to diagnose and almost impossible to eradicate, was a bland piety, a self-satisfied and prosperous reasonableness, the honest conviction that churches must, after all, move with the times. This - the concessions to modernity, to criticism, science, and philosophy, and to good tone - this was the treason of the clerks."(343)
Voorbeeld: Engeland en zijn Anglicaanse kerk:
"The rise of Methodism in this environment must be taken as a devastating criticism of the Anglican clergy, as proof that Christians were aware of the treason of the clercs while philosophes were were taking advantage of it."(346)
Ander voorbeeld: Duitsland waar Katholieken, Lutheranen en Calvinisten elkaar voordurend dwarszaten en geen enkele tolerantie toonden.
"It was not merely intolerance that did damage to the Christian cause: the version of political tolerance that grew up in German states like Prussia did the same damage in a differrent way. A tolerance based on indifference or on calculation only encouraged indifference or calculation in turn."(348)
"Lichtenberg amusingly epitomized this confusion when he thanked God "a thousand times" for "letting him grow up to be an atheist.""(350)
Dan naar Frankrijk waar de katholieke kerk veel rijker was en meer invloed had dan de protestantse kerken in andere landen en er ook veel meer in slaagde om haar privileges te behouden.
"As in Protestant Europe, in France too it seemed as if the cunning of history was luring the clergy into suicidal conduct."(351)
En hetzelfde gold voor andere katholieke landen als Spanje en Italië.
"Of all the Christian spoils the ones most consistently useful to the philosophes were the methods and the results of Christian erudition. In the latter half of the seventeenth century and early in the eighteenth an army of scholarly theologians employed the delicate and potent critical instruments developed in the Renaissance to advance the historical study and demonstrate the historical truth of the Christian religion. Learned Benedictines, Jesuits, and Anglicans refined the canons of criticism, radically improved paleography, developed numismatics, gathered vast collections of documents, and wrote authoritative monographs. These historians confronted their task with absolute honesty and devout industry—an industry never surpassed and rarely matched by the philosophes, who, for their part, worked hard enough—and piously pursued historical truth through the jungle of illegible documents, tangled chronology, and expert falsiﬁcations. Only a few of them bothered with secular history: Muratori—“the leamed Muratori,” Gibbon called him appreciatively—who founded the study of medieval Italian history with his exhaustive compilation of documents, did not let his priestly vocation interfere with his emancipated verdicts on the Italian past; and in Germany Johann Jakob Brucker, Lutheran pastor though he was, placed secular thinkers in the center of the stage in his history of philosophy. But their fellows elsewhere put their erudition quite directly into the service of their sect. Generations of indefatigable and contentious English scholars devoted their lives to lightening up the obscurities of medieval ecclesiastical history in order to answer, as one of them put it, “that never ending question, ‘Where was your church before Luther?’ ” Across the Channel, in Flanders and in Paris, monkish antiquarians expended their collective energies and lavish ﬁnancial resources to establish a reliable calendar of saints, a sensible account of clerical life, and a credible martyrology—all to purify Catholic history from the dross of legend gathered through superstition or mendacity. It must be said of these scholars, of giants like Mabillon or Montfaucon, that they loved the past for its own sake just as they loved the truth for its own sake, but with them love of truth and love of history merged insensibly into love of God.
The philosophes were rather ambivalent about this erudition. As urbane men of letters they professed to have little respect for what they liked to call plodding pedantry. The scholars sought salvation in humble detail; the philosophes feared it as a morass."(359-360)
De philosophes gebruikten al dat werk van die 'scholars' - bijvoorbeeld Antoine Augustin Calmet (Voltaire) of Johann Jakob Brucker (Diderot) - voor hun eigen doeleinden.
"All the men of the Enlightenment were cuckoos in the Christian nest; none more discriminating than Gibbon."(368)
"While the variations among the philosophes are far from negligible, they only orchestrate a single passion that bound the little flock together, the passion to cure the spiritual malady that is religion, the germ of ignorance, barbarity, hypocrisy, ﬁlth, and the basest self-hatred. It is true that just as they disagreed on their diagnoses, the philosophes disagreed on their prescriptions for health: the atheists reduced the simple doctrines of natural religion to a mere expressive metaphor for the majesty of nature, and the skeptics doubted that the truth of natural religion could be reliably established. But both groups conceded to the deists that natural religion alone—a religion without miracles, priestly hierarchies, ritual, divine saviors, original sin, chosen people, and providential history — was tolerable and intellectually respectable. All other religions deserved to be extirpated: this was the meaning of Voltaire’s slogan—which was also the slogan of the others Ecrasez l'infâme."(373)
Kritiek op de Kerk en skepticisme over wonderen waren er altijd al geweest, maar dan vaak gericht op het versterken van het Christendom. Nu werd de kritiek fundamenteel. Dat begon met de Engelse deïsten (Thomas Woolston, Anthony Collins, Thomas Morgan, John Toland, Tindal, Middleton) die intellectueel misschien niet zo hoogstaand waren, maar historisch van grote betekenis zijn gebleken. Ze speelden een rol in de Duitse Verlichting - Lessing bijvoorbeeld die fragmenten van Reimarus uitbracht die een schandaal veroorzaakten. Maar ze hadden via de eerdere Franse deïsten en vrijdenkers het meeste invloed op de Franse philosophes.
""Reason and conscience are perfectly adequate for man's conduct"- this phrase, from an anonymous manuscript, Le militaire philosophe, which Voltaire highly esteemed for its logic and eloquence, might be found in all the others."(384)
"The philosophes who read, memorized, distributed, and occasionally added to this literature were thus not lonely innovators. Rather they were gifted popularizers who used their literary talents to say what had been said before but not so well."(384-385)
Voltaire wordt uitgebreid besproken (met name zijn Lettres philosophiques en zijn Dictionnaire Philosophique). Maar hoe kritisch ook op religie: hij bleef in God geloven, hij was geen atheïst zoals de materialisten.
"While Voltaire continued to bait l'infâme almost to the day of his death, by the middle of the 1760's he was engaged with another adversary—materialism. Voltaire did not treat Holbach and his circle as infamous: he regarded the materialists as misguided allies and conceded that a society of atheists could exist peacefully, provided all the citizens were philosophers. But a belief in God was essential, partly because an atheist king, like an atheist merchant or an atheist servant, would feel liberated from all constraints with disastrous consequences to himself and his society, but partly also because it was true. That is why Voltaire did not adopt the atheism increasingly fashionable in advanced intellectual circles when he was an old man: he believed in God.(...)
Such philosophical enthusiasm for a Watchmaker God moved the materialists to derisive laughter and exposed Voltaire— Voltaire of all men!—to sarcastic reﬂections on his “timidity” and “bigotry.” But while the relations of Voltaire and Holbach were sometimes strained, usually they were cordial enough, and the pleasure their disputes gave to the pious was short-lived. For despite their serious disagreements over cosmology and the foundations of ethics they were ﬁrmly on the same side in the most important issue that divided men in the eighteenth century. They were on the side of science against piety, criticism against myth."(396-397)
"In the main Hume was concerned with the logic of belief and with its causes rather than with its consequences."(404)
Bespreking van Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, waaronder een kritiek op geloof in wonderen, en de Natural History of Religion.
"Hume's point is not that reports of miracles can never be sincere. It is not even - despite his own unwavering incredulity - that they can never be true. It is rather that they can never be satisfactorily demonstrated."(405)
"The religions prevalent in modern times were thus the offspring of a long development, a development that Hume refused to call progress."(411)
Zeer gedetailleerde beschrijving van bronnen. Grote namen: Ernst Cassirer, Arthur O. Lovejoy, Paul Hazard. Maar te veel om hier verder uit te werken.