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The Enlightenment In Contemporary Cultural Debate

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Chapter Summary

Recent decades have seen renewed debate on the Enlightenment. Some writers are staunch defenders of the Enlightenment; others see a commitment to universal values, science and rationality as typical Western preoccupations that should be disparaged being a pretext for 'ethnocentrism', 'Euro-centrism', even 'racism', or at least for Western arrogance. This chapter contributes to this debate by referencing to the work of two contemporary scholars, Jonathan Israel and Ian Buruma. It starts with the British historian, Jonathan Israel, in whose work the debates about historical phenomena and contemporary significance meet. The chapter gives a sketch of four themes that recur throughout Israel's work. It discusses his ideas concerning the importance of one of those themes, in particular the significance of the principle of free speech, or, as it was called by Spinoza, "libertas philosophandi ".

Keywords: Enlightenment; Ian Buruma; Jonathan Israel; Spinoza



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