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What Was Enlightenment?

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Chapter Summary

During the eighteenth century, the German Enlightenment's major players rapidly transformed themselves into a self-appointed elite that patrolled the boundaries of the public sphere. As a result, for most educated Protestants social distinction and public debate went hand-in-hand. This chapter pursues the social exclusivity in print debate through an analysis of a group of sixteen texts that grappled with not only the Edict on Religion but also the great question "What is Enlightenment?" Throughout the chapter, the group is referred to under the rubric "On the Philosophical Debate on the Nature and Boundaries of the Enlightenment." The "Philosophical Debate" began in 1788, with the anonymous publication, in direct response to the Edict on Religion, of a text entitled On Enlightenment.

Keywords: edict on religion; German Enlightenment; philosophical debate; public sphere



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