The trouble with the Enlightenment

Prospect Magazine

The trouble with the Enlightenment


Arguments about the Age of Reason have become stale. Can a new book transform the debate?

Like all good liberal intellectuals of the last century, Saul Bellow’s Moses Herzog spent a great deal of time agonising over the legacy of the Enlightenment. Cuckolded and divorced, Herzog seeks to make sense of himself, his country, and his century by writing unsent letters to philosophers and politicians, alive and dead. He laments the “liberal-bourgeois illusion of perfection, the poison of hope,” and demands that President Eisenhower “make it all clear to me in a few words.” Instead, he learns the brutal truth from his friend Sandor Himmelstein. “Somewhere in every intellectual is a dumb prick,” Sandor tells Herzog. “You guys can’t answer your own questions… What good are these effing eggheads! It takes an ignorant bastard like me to fight liberal causes.”

In the last decade or so, defenders of the Enlightenment have shunned Herzog’s anxieties about liberal modernity in favour of Sandor’s belligerence. In the wake of 9/11 and the perceived threats of Islamic fundamentalism, a brotherhood of articulate, no-bullshit philosophes, led by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, dragged debates about the Enlightenment’s legacy out of the academy and into the public sphere. They traced all that was worth defending in the modern western world to the 18th century, when rationality, science, secularism and democracy took hold of the European mind.

Though they possessed an impressive capacity for tub-thumping alarmism, these modern freethinkers were by no means the first to mobilise the Enlightenment for their cause. The 18th-century philosophes such as Voltaire, Diderot and d’Alembert effectively volunteered their services to the debates of subsequent generations by presenting themselves as the vanguard of modernity. In 1784, Immanuel Kant famously described the Enlightenment as “humanity’s escape from self-imposed tutelage”; it was an intellectual revolution which allowed the human mind to fulfil its natural desire to think for itself, and from which social and political freedom would follow. In short, the Enlightenment presented itself as the dawn of modern self-consciousness, and as the beginning of reason’s slow but inexorable triumph over myth and obscurantism.

Of course, the philosophes’ self-fashioning as liberators of mankind invited detractors. Just over 20 years after Kant’s triumphalist declaration, Hegel would blame the Enlightenment for the guillotine and the bloody excesses of the French Revolution, thus laying the groundwork for the criticism that the Enlightenment had sacrificed love, spirituality and tradition at the altar of reason and absolute freedom. Kant and Hegel effectively dug the trenches for the 20th-century philosophical battle over the Enlightenment. From Germany on the eve of the Nazi seizure of power, Ernst Cassirer launched a pre-emptive defence of Weimar liberalism by reviving Kant’s philosophy of reason. In Californian exile in 1944, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno retaliated against Cassirer’s naivety: the Enlightenment, they said, had found expression not in the dying embers of the Weimar regime but in the murderous furnaces of Nazi Germany, and in the technocratic totalitarianism that was then tearing Europe apart. (The view that the Enlightenment led to Hitler is today popular with the religious right. “You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism,” said Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, on Fox News earlier this week. “And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.”)

Horkheimer and Adorno’s nuclear Hegelianism, translated into English in 1972, energised the postmodern critique of liberal universalism. Continental philosophers such as Derrida and Foucault attempted to reveal the absolutist and imperialist nature of the principles of justice and truth, while in the English-speaking world John Gray and Alasdair Macintyre blamed the Enlightenment for the misguided utopian political projects of the 20th century and for the atomised and materialist world of the capitalist west. Predictably, the loyal children of the Enlightenment fought back. Where Kwame Anthony Appiah described himself as a “neo-Enlightenment thinker,” others, such as Francis Wheen, opted for stronger language to combat “mumbo-jumbo” irrationalism, perhaps inspired by Ernest Gellner’s self-identification in his 1992 book Postmodernism, Reason and Religion as an “Enlightenment Rationalist Fundamentalist.”

The strident rationalism of Hitchens, Wheen et al is, in this way, simply the vulgarisation of a long intellectual tradition, whereby thinkers view the Enlightenment in terms of whatever happens to be “modernity” at a given time, whether it is the atheist and communist modernity of the early 20th century or the secular, democratic modernity of today. As the Stanford historian Dan Edelstein recently pointed out, “accounts of the Enlightenment accordingly become something else entirely: thinly veiled ideological manifestos or pale reflections of current trends.”

Which makes it all the more strange that none of the major voices in this recent debate about the legacy of the Enlightenment belongs to a historian. It’s not as if the archives have been absent of historians investigating the intellectual world of 18th-century Europe. Since at least Peter Gay’s monumental The Enlightenment (1966), scholars have been attempting to reconstruct what the philosophes thought about their own politics and societies. What’s more, they have told us who read the philosophes’ work and what they made of it. They have told us that the Enlightenment was not only based in Paris and Scotland but in Italy, Poland and the European periphery. They have debated the reformist and revolutionary influence of the Enlightenment, and argued whether we can even speak of a single Enlightenment, given its various local manifestations. Our knowledge of the political, intellectual and cultural world in which the 18th-century revolution of the mind took place is vastly deeper and more textured than it was 50 years ago.

And yet this vast industry of research has scarcely registered in the trench warfare over the Enlightenment’s intellectual legacy. For whatever reason, the nuancing, problematising conclusions of historians have failed to break the centuries-old Kantian-Hegelian lines across which philosophers, theorists and journalists trade ideological artillery. Historians are certainly not oblivious to the contemporary relevance of the Enlightenment, and the achievements of scholars over the past half-century, such as Robert Darnton, Daniel Roche and Franco Venturi, have been extraordinary, necessary, and celebrated in the world of academia; but their assertions have largely failed to resonate above the clamorous tussle over modernity.

Perhaps frustrated by the impotence of historians in fighting for liberal causes, in 2001 Jonathan Israel released his inner Sandor Himmelstein and published the first (800-page) instalment of a three-part history of the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Here was a historian with impressive credentials in the study of Spanish imperialism, the origins of capitalism and the emergence of secularism in the 17th-century Dutch Republic—ideally qualified, it seemed, to tie in the contingent origins of the Enlightenment with its complex philosophical and political legacies.

No such luck. Despite the erudition of Israel’s monumental trilogy, he has rightly been criticised for an out-of-control obsession with Spinoza and for his apparent belief that what seem, to modern eyes, like the strongest philosophical arguments of the age (for liberty, democracy, tolerance) were also the most important historically. Many critics took Israel to be projecting a particularly benevolent view of western secular democracy into the distant and fundamentally different past. Once again, the 18th century had been swallowed whole by modernity, its supposed creation.

What is a historian of ideas to do? A pessimist would say she is faced with two options. She could continue to research the Enlightenment on its own terms, and wait for those who fight over its legacy—who are somehow confident in their definitions of what “it” was—to take notice. Or, as Israel has done, she could pick a side, and mobilise an immense archive for the cause of liberal modernity or for the cause of its enemies. In other words, she could join Moses Herzog, with his letters that never get read and his questions that never get answered, or she could join Sandor Himmelstein and the loud, ignorant bastards. Is there any other way?


Hope of redemption comes with the news that Anthony Pagden has written a book called The Enlightenment, And Why It Still Matters (Oxford University Press, £20). Pagden, now at UCLA, has had a globetrotting career of which most academics can only dream. Educated in Chile, London and Oxford, he has held a host of positions in the history, politics and philosophy departments at many of England, Europe and America’s most elite academic institutions. He has written learned studies of western-European imperialisms, migrations and ideologies. His last book was a survey of 2500 years of global conflict between “east” and “west.” He is, without question, a man of the world, and perfectly qualified to give us a global perspective on why the Enlightenment, in all its historical particularity, “still matters.”

Pagden’s story begins with the world that the Enlightenment saw itself as replacing. The great thinkers of the 17th century—Newton, Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke—destroyed the scholasticism of the universities, which held that the human mind is hardwired with innate, God-given ideas, and replaced it with an account of human nature that relied instead on empirical experience and self-interest. The 18th century therefore inherited a worldview with rational man, not God, at its centre. But with Christianity no longer pulling the intellectual strings, what was to stop humanity from lapsing into self-centredness, cruelty and conflict?

The Enlightenment’s great achievement, Pagden argues, was to repair the bonds of mankind. Its distinctive feature was not that it held history, nature, theology and political authority to the scrutiny of reason, as most of its critics and many of its champions claim, but instead that it recognised our common humanity—our ability to place ourselves in another’s situation and, ultimately, to sympathise with them. Adam Smith and David Hume taught us that man is neither a creation of God nor a selfish pursuer of his own interests; at the most fundamental level, man is the friend of man. This, Pagden argues, was the origin of cosmopolitanism: the central Enlightenment belief in a common humanity and an awareness of belonging to some world larger than your own community.

For Pagden, the significance of this turn in human thought cannot be exaggerated. Cosmopolitanism “was, and remains, possibly the only way to persuade human beings to live together in harmony with one another, or, to put it differently, to stop killing each other.” It is inextricably tied to the Enlightenment’s “universalising vision of the human world” that ultimately led to a conception of civilisation in which questions of justice can be applied and upheld at a global level. Pagden admonishes critics of the Enlightenment project such as Gray and Macintyre for reducing it to a movement based on autonomous reason and objective science. Instead, the Enlightenment was about sympathy, the invention of civilisation, and the pursuit of a cosmopolitan world order.

While he is clearly in the Kantian camp in arguing for why the Enlightenment still matters, Pagden wants to make it clear that all participants in the debate have been fighting over the wrong issues. And these issues still matter because the cosmopolitan project is still incomplete. In shifting the focus of the Enlightenment away from science and reason in favour of sympathy and civilisation, Pagden may well have dodged the odd postmodern bullet. But what if his version of the Enlightenment is in fact even more questionable than the traditional “Age of Reason” Enlightenment with which the Hegelians, the postmodernists and the communitarians had such fun?

One major problem is that Pagden’s cosmopolitanism rests on outright hostility to any religion. He believes that as long as any “ethics of belief” still exists, the Enlightenment project will remain incomplete. For the most part, his presentist defence of secular cosmopolitanism is restrained to coy, rhetorical asides about suicide bombers, Pope Benedict XVI and “uneducated believers.” Yet it manifests itself fully in the book’s conclusion: a bizarre counter-history of a Europe in which the Enlightenment never happened—a Europe that had “dropped behind,” before being conquered by its “centuries-old antagonist to the east, the Ottoman Empire.” It is a Europe in which nobody can think for himself, choosing instead to listen to the Prophet and his laws. Europe has become a civilisation which fails to progress, which is no kind of civilisation at all.

This is a peculiar attempt to prove that the Enlightenment is all that stands between the west and Islamist despotism. But it is the natural culmination of a narrative that presents the Enlightenment project as the discovery of some timeless truth that had previously been obscured by religion. This raises a further objection to Pagden’s cosmopolitanism: it unquestioningly endorses the Enlightenment belief that “civilisation” is the inevitable destiny of all human beings and all human societies. The philosophes worked this out in Europe in the 18th century, thinks Pagden, and we in the west are still waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

But a cosmopolitanism that rests upon ideals that were developed centuries ago in a few corners of Europe is just about the most restrictive, parochial cosmopolitanism imaginable. In its advocacy of a global “civilising process” it is archly imperial, recalling the condescending liberal aspirations that Thomas Macaulay and John Stuart Mill once held for the British Empire’s Indian subjects. And in its comprehensive rejection of religion as having any role to play in human understanding and organisation, it is a hopeless model for modern global governance. No society has ever existed without being accompanied by some form of religion or spirituality; this holds true today, even in the “disenchanted” west. If the dawning of a new cosmopolitan era is waiting on the disappearance of religion from human affairs, it will be waiting a long time.

This point about global governance is key, as Pagden is a keen supporter of supranational institutions such as the UN, tracing their origins back to Kant’s essay Toward a Perpetual Peace (1795). Kant was never quite clear on what this institution would be—a “league of peoples,” “an international state,” a “universal nation of states”—but Pagden emphasises that Kant could imagine a peaceful, global federation of political representatives. The global institutions that we have now, he argues, should be seen as a laudable attempt to make Kant’s imagined federation a reality.

Pagden’s faith in these institutions might strike some as quixotic, as the European Union struggles to find an effective democratic solution to its financial troubles, as UN sanctions struggle to deter bellicose nuclear powers, and as the US continues to see itself as exempt from the International Criminal Court. As Mark Mazower’s recent book persuasively argued, one of the principal lessons of the 20th century is that the claims of cosmopolitan ideals and institutions to trump the sanctity of borders “may turn out to produce more wars, more massacres and more instability.” And even if some form of cosmopolitanism or global legalism is needed to solve the problems of the 21st century, why should the answers lie exclusively with the cosmopolitanism of 18th century Europe? Arguing from the authority of the philosophes is unlikely to convince those non-European cultures which have their own heritage of cosmopolitan thought, nor those where the legacy of European imperialism is still a political factor.

Voltaire implored his contemporaries to eschew their deference to the past; perhaps it is time historians and theorists of the Enlightenment do the same. Pagden thinks the cosmopolitan Enlightenment that he has identified is so important that he has unquestioningly adopted its secular worldview, which sees global history marching in one direction, towards a future that was imagined in Europe over 200 years ago. In making his Enlightenment about sympathetic cosmopolitanism, he believes he has successfully broken free from the interminable debate about the legacy of the Age of Reason, in which the charges laid against the philosophes include technocratic scientism and the atomisation of society. But one doesn’t have to be a postmodernist, nor a postcolonial activist, to take exception to Pagden’s European triumphalism.


But all is not lost. Pagden makes no secret of writing his history of the Enlightenment with current debates in mind. Such presentism can skew our view of the past, and make us read into it the stories we want to tell ourselves. But it can also encourage us to discover aspects of the past that have previously been overlooked. And if Pagden’s account of enlightened cosmopolitanism is a surprisingly conventional narrative prompted by current controversies of “globalisation,” then there are promising signs that more original attempts will follow.

David Armitage, the Harvard historian, has recently argued that a renaissance in the history of international thought is underway. Intellectual historians are studying the movement, connections and interactions of ideas, how they travel and how they are communicated. Historians of the Enlightenment, for example, have begun to pay attention to Adam Smith’s claim that the two most important events in the history of mankind were the discovery of America and that of the passage to the East Indies around the Cape of Good Hope. The philosophes lived in a world connected across oceans by networks of navigation, commerce and correspondence, providing a contingent basis for their universal conceptions of cosmopolitanism and cultural progress. Humanity was drawn closer together in the 18th century not only in the minds of a few great thinkers but in a fundamentally material way as well.

While globalisation has encouraged historians to explore the spatial scope of Enlightenment ideas, another 21st century concern of planetary significance—the threat of climate change and global warming—has sent scholars in another fruitful direction. As the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has noted, the Enlightenment coincided with the period in which human beings switched from wood and other renewable fuels to the large-scale use of fossil fuels; the origins of ideological and material modernity, in other words, coincided with humankind becoming capable of causing lasting change to the planet. As Chakrabarty puts it, “the mansion of modern freedom stands on an ever-expanding base of fossil-fuel use.” The not entirely unrealistic possibility that mankind might not in the future exist on this planet, that there might be a world without us, therefore calls into question the notions of freedom and of civilisation progressing endlessly into the future which began in the 18th century, along with mankind’s first significant intervention into its planetary environment.

These are grand historical projects, reflecting the scale of the contemporary concerns out of which they have emerged. It is unclear how the Enlightenment will look against the backdrop of primitive globalisation, or the planet’s transition to the anthropocene, but chances are that perspectives of such magnitude might shake the convictions of Kantians and Hegelians alike. These approaches will not be able to provide us with an Enlightenment that “still matters” in the sense that it has all of the answers to our political and philosophical anxieties. But unlike in Herzog, a question that goes unanswered is not always the sign of a nervous breakdown or of ideological impotence. A healthy society needs intellectuals to ask uncomfortable questions. After all, one of the many reasons the Enlightenment still matters is that it taught us to question how we got here, and what that might mean for where we’re going. And with questions like that, who can hope for easy answers?

Michael Ignatieff: In defence of the Enlightenment

John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong. We are not becoming less violent.

A Tory Communist: Ian Buruma interviews Eric Hobsbawm

The origins of globalisation by Matthew Wolfson

Three days with Christopher Hitchens by Alexander Linklater

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  1. May 7, 2013

    Stephen Kennamer

    I reckon just about all I need to know about the Enlightenment is that its opponents have been Hegel, Adorno, Derrida, and John Gray. When you make all the right enemies, you are probably doing something right.

    Pardon me if I side with the champions of rationality and empiricism, of the scientific method and deism, against the defenders of religious faith and the “traditional values” that had given Europe the ancien regime. Blaming the philosophers who practically introduced the notions of religious tolerance and secular democracy for totalitarianism, and the thinkers who touted rationality for the Holocaust, is an intellectual move worthy of the Enlightenment’s opponents.

    “One major problem is that Pagden’s cosmopolitanism rests on outright hostility to any religion.” For some of us, that’s not a problem at all, much less a major problem. Because most religion by its very nature is divisive, real cosmopolitanism cannot coexist with it. “He believes that as long as any “ethics of belief” still exists, the Enlightenment project will remain incomplete.” He’s right.

    This article finds religion to be a key element in any viable civilization. Well, whether he is right or wrong about that, perhaps he should remember that the Enlightenment led to the American experiment with the separation of church and state, so that this country officially tolerated all religions while favoring none. Does he have a problem with that? Then the author points out that many regions of the world want no part of the Enlightenment, so there! But arguing that no one will listen to the philosophes is not the same as proving that they were wrong.

    But as I read back over my submission, I admit that it bears out one of the article’s points: the debate about the Enlightenment does promote a certain degree of belligerence.

  2. May 7, 2013

    Bruce Lewis

    Pagden is not so sophisticated, so cosmopolitan or so broadly educated as Mr. Cussen seems to think he is. Francois Rene de Chateaubriand opined long ago, in La Genie de Christianisme that the origin of the expanding sympathies and universalist solidarity that inspired the political revolutions of the Enlightenment period of European history was, paradoxically, in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Chateaubriand even believed that what Kant called “the cutting edge of VIRTUE in history” (the guillotine itself) was, ironically, the “whip” that Christ wielded against the money changers in the Temple.

    • May 7, 2013

      Ethan Guagliardo

      I guess you’ve never heard of Stoicism; and it probably hasn’t occurred to you that there is no term for the Greek “cosmopolitanism” in the New Testament.

  3. May 7, 2013

    David Airth

    To understand the Enlightenment and what it has given the world just look at where the Enlightenment didn’t occur, chiefly in the Arab/Muslim world. The enlightenment virtues of secularism and pluralism are sorely lacking there.

    • May 21, 2013

      César Augusto de Castro

      Well, the Holocaust, Nazism, Fascism and other symbols of “Western Enlightenment” didn’t occur in the Arab/Muslim world – what do you have to say about that?

      By the way, if Europe is Secular, how do you explain the fact that countries like Great-Britain, Denmark, or Greece still have State Religions?

      Ah, yes – don’t forget all those Evangelicals in the USA…

      What you say is babble!

  4. May 7, 2013


    I am not a philosopher nor am particularly well read in that area but there are several points in the article I find most disturbing. Religion in general throughout many of these discussions lays claim to all morality of decency and humane behavior on the basis that its dogmatic literature is the word of its supreme creator and its command must be obeyed merely on that basis. It is not a matter of basic inherent human decency but absolute compliance with a force that cannot be disobeyed. That humans, similar to other social animals, retain inherent biological drives for compassionate behavior seems to be beyond their comprehension.
    That Hitler is produced as an example of the horror of not being religious verges on rather black humor since he claimed to be Catholic and subsequent to the Second World War it is on record that many German Nazis were aided in their escape to South America by Vatican officials.
    History has clearly indicated that the most brutal and inhumane behavior has been committed by people irrelevant as to their religion and many of the most repellant actions have had their source in religious doctrine.
    Because of the demand that religious people obey their dogma unquestioningly many problems have developed and the Enlightenment has, at minimum, encouraged worthwhile questioning of absolute conformity to doctrine whatever its source and the rise of technology, although not always a good thing, has, in general, lead to more human prosperity and innovative thought than total conformity to ancient belief would permit.

  5. May 7, 2013

    Rob Crutchfield

    The ideal of a universal community was already old in the 18th century; it was implicit in Christianity at least from its first few centuries (and maybe in Roman imperialist ideology), and is reflected both in the idea of the Holy Roman Empire and in perennial utopian religious communities. One thing that was new in the Enlightenment vision, I would say, is the belief that it could be achieved without universal submission, either to a common monarch or to a divinely ordained rule of life. Another new thing, as Ollie Cussen wisely observes, was incipient awareness of the shrinking of the world, focusing then on geography and communication, and subsequently on population, natural resources, and the environment.

    • May 7, 2013


      Although society is still divided there nevertheless exist subgroups that do bridge all divides. Science itself is one of these groups as well as some of the divisions of the arts. Society is a strange mosaic of interlocking disciplines.

  6. May 7, 2013


    “I reckon just about all I need to know about the Enlightenment is that its opponents have been Hegel, Adorno, Derrida, and John Gray”.

    And I reckon I learn much about the Enlightenment’s cheerleaders, if the best they can do is define the merits of the project negatively by those who critique it.

    “Pardon me if I side with the champions of rationality and empiricism, of the scientific method and deism, against the defenders of religious faith and the ‘traditional values’ [...]”

    Pardon the remainder of us if we refuse to accept such a false dichotomy, and such a simplistic and impoverished view of our choices.

    “But as I read back over my submission, I admit that it bears out one of the article’s points: the debate about the Enlightenment does promote a certain degree of belligerence”.

    Translation: When even lightly prodded, the self-proclaimed apostles of sweet reason and tolerance become as nasty as those they oppose. The word for this is “hypocrisy”.

    • May 9, 2013


      Thank You.

  7. May 7, 2013


    “No society has ever existed without being accompanied by some form of religion or spirituality; this holds true today, even in the “disenchanted’ west.”

    “Never before” is a bad argument against never ever. We’ve seen to many ‘never befores’ fall by the wayside, as had many Enlightenment thinkers. This, indeed, is one of the major strands in Enlightenment thought; not to treat as sacrosanct that which is merely customary. Religion has always been a divisive force except when both religion and government are not free.

  8. May 7, 2013


    In my Sandor like perspective, Enlightenment is no other than than the codification of a natural liberalism that evolved, and prospered, in certain places, after the Dark Ages. I just was refered to Bertrand Russel as stating that liberalism isno other thing than an attitude.
    There used to be a pre liberal Enlightenment in the Arab world of Al Andalus, though it was a tolerant semi-segregated coexistence, it was sort of an economic and religious laissez faire laissez passer. (segregation took place mostly at night, not much in daily life.) As a precedent to liberalism that later evolved in free cities. Religion was a private matter. (Yes I am aware of Progroms and Inquisition, I descend from those that suffered that.)
    Later western philosophers apropiated the ideas, as a response to Absolutism’s Dark Ages, became the owners of liberalism and Enlightenment. In order to make thing easy to understand, they ereased ownership of any good idea that was not Roman or Greek.
    Liberalism is praxis, simple principles. Natural. As communism is ideas, ideals. A fabrication.
    Now, back to fighting…

    Sandor Garza
    Monterrey, México

  9. May 7, 2013

    Sean Matthews

    You know, Prospect magazine looks more and more like a sort of english version of the New Criterion each time I look at it, or even (god forbid – so to speak) First Things.

    • May 19, 2013

      Paul Dove

      Indeed but not really very surprising. Its founding editor David Goodhart veered to the right long ago and now spends much of his time warning against the evils of immigration. Its present editor is an ex-FT/Times hack having previously worked for Kleinwort Benson Securities. In the UK, Prospect is now indistinguishable from the brayingly conservative Spectator magazine

  10. May 7, 2013

    Nathan Zebrowski

    There is much to admire in “Sandor Garza”s contribution. A modest Hegelianism lurks there: liberalism is a practice that people pursue because it satisfies certain social desires that develop organically out of certain conditions. Philosophical liberalism is a reflection on this development and this practice and not an a priori justification of it or a system of rules for creating it where the conditions do not exist.

    Religion is also, for Hegel, in part, a kind of practice, but it out-develops itself into a kind of theological philosophy, where it is uprooted from its generative conditions, and where it loses its specifically religious ground. As a practice and as a higher poetry, though (or, as Les Murray would put it, a large poem in loving repetition, inexhaustible), religion has its own place–not governing societies, but, as Sandor Garza almost puts it, restoring our souls at night.

    There are worse ways to see things.

  11. May 8, 2013


    Someone explain to me how Pagden’s position is different from any of the ‘New Atheists’. It’s the same crude argument, but in a historical garb.

  12. May 8, 2013

    Misha Van De Veire

    This article started out well but I cannot say the same for the work as a whole.
    Cussen states: “One major problem is that Pagden’s cosmopolitanism rests on outright hostility to any religion.” And “This is a peculiar attempt to prove that the Enlightenment is all that stands between the west and Islamist despotism.”
    First, Enlightenment atheists, deists, and secular humanists were in complete accord about the need to reject theocracy and theism as both immature and dangerous. They advocated the position that man’s hatreds and cruelties toward one another were human failings which could be overcome through reason and education and natural moral empathy and were not the result of man’s “fallen nature” or the influence of evil spirits. They were hostile to religion only to the degree it claimed to have a God-given, exclusive right to control the behavior of everyone in society.
    His last statement is incomplete and lacks comprehensiveness. Enlightenment reason and empathy (the best aspects of the American experiment in a secular constitution) is what stands against—is the only societal alternative to Islamist theocracy and Catholic theocracy and Hindu theocracy. Was Cussen trying to or going to claim that religion is a force for good in the world? The degree to which religions advocate their Golden Rule philosophies over their authoritarian, exclusivist, anti-feminine, anti-gay, anti-birth control rules is the degree to which they enjoy the liberty of living in an Enlightenment secular society and having their religion both ways. Give the religious despots and fanatics the power they once had, and apologists and communitarians like Tony Blair and Tariq Ramadan would eventually face the same situation Galileo faced: recant or be broken on the rack.
    The Enlightenment and its offspring, Romanticism, surely deserve the major credit in freeing the human capacity to love nature for its own sake from theocratic eschatology and the view that the natural world stands in the way of the soul’s entrance into heaven. Science guided by Enlightenment wisdom is the only hope for mankind.
    One final comment: Cussen is critical of “the strident rationalism of Hitchens.” Why did Cussen miss the humor, the fine parsing of the various positions religion offers and their implications, and especially the clarity of a literary approach to the claims of theistic religion and their consequences? Cussen drags us into dichotomies which others have dissipated with tact, generosity, humor, and intellectual discipline. Read Pagden for yourself, and Hitchens and Dawkins and Dennett. Above all watch their lectures and panel discussions on Youtube and share in the joy of being human!

    • May 9, 2013


      No. No. No. You got it wrong in so many places. Let’s just start with the fact that Cussen was not trying to promote the Idea that Religion is a source of “good” in the world. Then we can move on to the fact that much of the criticism of the Enlightenment revolves around the fact that “faith” in science and reason can lead to eugenics and moral relativism which increases the likelihood of humans killing each other en masse (aka. the holocaust). And finally lets dismiss your claim that, “Science guided by Enlightenment wisdom is the only hope for mankind.” A claim so detached from reality I wouldn’t even know where to begin criticizing it. You seem to not have the faintest grasp of what Cussen and other intellectuals are debating when they discussing the Enlightenment. I don’t blame you for this because you seem to be impressed by the philosophical musings of people like Dawkins, whose “philosohpy” isn’t even worth debating.

      • May 11, 2013

        Misha Van De Veire

        You write that I am mistaken because I have “faith” in science. This is not even wrong. Science does not rely on or espouse faith. Science represents methodological naturalism—i.e., the rational and imaginative attempt to gain a better and better understanding of nature through nature. (You don’t need Dawkins or Hitchens to see this. A logical analysis of the meaning of words will show you that “science” and “faith” are diametrically opposed to one another.)
        Your second objection, that secularism gave us the holocaust, is also beyond wrong. You are confusing many arguments: what atheism actually espouses, the history of totalitarianism and its ties to organized religion, the crypto-religious nature of fascist despots and the true believers that put their mad visions into practice.
        You misunderstood my claim that science guided by Enlightenment wisdom is the only hope for mankind. First, you fail to see that I place wisdom first. Science cannot give us wisdom. Wisdom is an ethical, rational, and imaginative understanding of the world and human fulfillment. Second, my claim is irrefutable. Technology was and ever will be with us. What has changed in the last 100 years is the scope of its role in civilization. We have occupied, transformed, and stressed and even despoiled so much of the earth that we no longer have the option of “returning to nature.” Technology is like a great ocean liner from which we cannot disembark. The question is not “Is it wise to rely on technology?” but rather: “What technology is it wise to use?”

  13. May 8, 2013

    .tony in san diego

    ” …with Christianity no longer pulling the intellectual strings, what was to stop humanity from lapsing into self-centredness, cruelty and conflict?

    What the heck are you talking about? Are you contrasting the scary self-centredness, cruelty and conflict of the Enlightenment with the altruism, kindness and consensus of the prior thousand years?

  14. May 8, 2013

    Ken Emmond

    Cussen mentions the thought experiment of what might have happened in Europe had the Ottoman Empire prevailed over the Christians. If there remains any doubt about that, try this thought experiment: what kind of Europe would have resulted had the Reformation failed? The dogmantism that rejected Galileo would have ensured that the efforts at scientific advancements would have been stillborn. The Crusades might have been revived, though without the strategic advantages of technological superiority. To this day the Catholic Church places its own law above the laws of nations (viz. what is happening in the priest-pedophile scandals.) While the Catholic Church has many humanitarian achievements to boast about at the level of the priest and the humble adherents, at the institutional level it’s hard to imagine that it’s much of an improvement over Sharía law. Cussen’s religious point is indeed well taken.

  15. May 9, 2013

    Chris Schorah

    Not many Enlightenment philosophers and historians or Pagden or even Ollie Cussen seem aware that the idea that man should be friends with man and develop a common humanity/cosmopolitanism originated, not with the Enlightenment, but with Jesus. Indeed, the sacrificial level that He called us to in loving neighbour and stranger arguably went far beyond Enlightenment thought. Yet Jesus also said to love God first.
    The problem was, and still is, the Godless Enlightenment ditched this first commandment, as had Christendom before it where the state had taken the trappings of Christianity without bowing the knee to Jesus and effectively secularised the Church. It was a pity that the Enlightenment thinkers didn’t realise that it was the corruption of Christianity that they needed to ditch, not God. Without Him in our lives we simply don’t have the gifts or inclination to be able to achieve what Pagden wishes. There’s no real redemtion from ourselves or effective restoration to what we were meant to be as the failures of Christendom and the after shocks of the Enlightenment have plainly shown.

  16. May 11, 2013


    Consider the Phoenicians, Nathan,

    Was not the ways of the Phoenicians a pretty ancient liberal way of life and coexistence? That was thousands of years ago, even before any known philosopher existed.
    Are you not familiar with the ways of another great practitioners of liberal like life, of virtuous circles (or feed back loops), brilliantly described in Avner Greif’s work about those other magnificent merchants in the Mediterranean sea: the Genoese in XIth century.
    There are some things that do not require much of creators, they virtuously and naturally evolve. (Would that be evolutionary sociology?)

    Phlebas Garza

    p.s. thank g.. Phoenician and a little Genoese blood runs through my blood; sorry I am not that well read much less a philosopher, never cared about Hegel or many others in my limited, hedgehoed reading (an engineer by day).

  17. May 18, 2013

    M Faraone

    Is Pagden aware that Dante Alighieri wrote a book of political philosophy called Monarchy, in which he argued for a world empire as the only means to further world peace and the concept of humanity, the idea being that without seperate nations there will be no war. Yes, the same 13th Century Dante who wrote the Divine Comedy. How does that fit Pagden’s theses that human sympathy and cosmopolitanism did not arrive until the 18th Century Philosophes. Pagden sounds like a propagandist, not a serious thinker.

  18. May 18, 2013

    Anthony St. John

    18 May MMXIII

    Now I’m really convinced that Western Civilization I (Europe) and Western Civilization II (DisUnited States of North America) are in via d’estinzione!

    Imagine Ollie Cussen trying to find an academic job in Europe!
    Boy, would he be “enlightened!!!”

    Anthony St. John
    The Italianist and No-bullshit Philosophé

    Calenzano, Italia

  19. May 18, 2013


    To: M Faraone
    Pagden sounds like the propagandist of the greatest propagandists of all time: the French. As being represented like virtual monopolists of Enlightenmetness and even originators of liberal thinking and behaviour.
    They have always been great for inspirational pourposes but the French hardly are for any practical pourposes.
    Did not the French Enlightenmet lead to Napoleon (hardly a humanist) and Napoleon lead to …?


  20. May 19, 2013


    Christopher Hitchens wrote a column once in which he vigorously defended right-wing US journalist Robert Novak. He was defending Novak against charges that he had knowingly exposed a working undercover CIA agent as a way of trying to undermine her husband’s whistle-blowing on the Bush Administration.

    In doing so Hitchens pushed a talking point circulating then on the right, which was to claim that Novak couldn’t have exposed her, because he read her name in “Who’s Who in America”.

    All it takes is ten seconds reflection to realize how comically absurd this particular “defense” of Novak was, since to swallow it you have to believe that “Who’s Who in America” listed her as “Valerie Wilson, née Plame, CIA Agent”. There are many more examples of ridiculous pronouncements by Hitchens, but this is perhaps the best.

    Christopher Hitchens being compared to Volataire and Kant? Please. Hitchens wasn’t even very bright for a journalist, and that’s saying something.

  21. May 20, 2013


    Cussen rightly identifies the tendency of successive generations of “progressive” thinkers to retrospectively re-cast the Enlightenment in the light of their own eras’ concerns. Even so, there’s something particularly piquant about today’s stock of engagé atheists adorning themselves in Enlightenment periwigs.

    True, there were a few thorough-going scientific materialists wafting through the salons of the Ancien Regime. But most intellectuals of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were either Deists or cleaved (qua the politically bold but philosophically cautious John Locke ) to an accommodation between Deism and traditional Theism.

    Central to Deist cosmology was a view of Nature as static, beneficent, rational and, for these reasons, normative. It was a view virtually identical to those of current day believers in “Intelligent Design”. There was room in this vision for the “noble savage” but not for the pterodactyl.

    For the men and women of the Enlightenment, the universe was a moral order, purposefully constituted by a higher being. Thus, the search for truth about the physical world was also a search for the sources of ethical obligation and for rational and (hence) moral rules of conduct. Perhaps their approach was not wholly unlike those of their theistic precursors and contemporaries, albeit that a key difference was the Deists’ rejection of revelation and of miracles and the downgrading of a priori reasoning, in favour of empirical observation.

    But what, philosophically, remained of Deism, once Hume had revealed the limits of empirical perception and what remained of the vision of a morally normative universe after Darwin? And, if the universe is not morally normative, from whence should we derive our moral norms? Much subsequent philosophy, particularly in the non-English speaking world, is an attempt to cope with the conundrum of ethical obligation, in the absence of both traditional religious imperatives and the morally normative Enlightenment concept of Nature.

    For the poster identified as “Sand”, however, this conundrum seems not to exist. Like other social animals, Sand writes, we humans retain “inherent biological drives for compassionate behaviour”. And so we do. But we also retain inherent drives that are far less compassionate. Why should one set of drives be considered normative and not the other? Even if we are justified in deriving an “ought” from an “is”, by what authority do we cherry pick?

    And whilst addressing Sand’s contribution to this thread, I note that he repeats that increasingly popular old saw about Hitler being a Catholic. This is a misunderstanding that verges on absurdity.

    Hitler was not a systematic thinker and, for opportunistic political reasons, avoided formally renouncing the faith of his ancestors (then, as now, Germans were required to register their religious affiliations for tax and other administrative purposes). But Mein Kampf and Hitler’s “Table Talk” clearly reveal an antipathy to traditional Christian values and teaching.

    For the Nazis, Christianity was a Semitic slave religion imposed on Aryan Germans by their supposed Jewish despoilers, in an attempt to sap the strength of the Herrenvolk . Why else, to adopt the Nazis own malign logic, would Christianity have posited the doctrine of the equality of all believers when science clearly showed humans to be inherently unequal both as individuals and as races?

    In other words, Nazism was (amongst many other things) a product of the Darwinian age, albeit that its Darwinism was of a vulgar, bowdlerised form. And, by the same logic that it rejected traditional religious ethical sanctions, it also rejected Enlightenment humanism, with the added consideration that the Enlightenment had been foisted on Germany by French cultural and military imperialism.

    Rather more curious is the contribution to this thread of poster Ken Emond, who seems to suggest that, without the Protestant Reformation, the Crusades might have resumed, but would have failed, due to Ottoman technological superiority. I’ve got news for Ken! Despite the Reformation and for good or ill, the Crusades did in fact resume and the largely Catholic armies of Austria, Poland and Bavaria proved more than a match for the Ottomans before the walls of Vienna and during the subsequent reconquest of Hungary.

    Ken also asks us to ponder the fate of Gallileo and suggests that, without the Reformation, most scientific advance may have been crushed by the Church. Counter-factual history is, of course, a dangerous (if highly enjoyable) game. But it’s at least as possible that, without the threat to its authority from Protestantism, the Vatican might not have felt the need to come down so heavily on Gallileo. We can but conjecture.

    What, meanwhile, are we to make of the claim that the Enlightenment invented cosmopolitanism? I’ve not yet read Pagden and don’t want to make unwarranted assumptions about his argument. However, as a number of other posters have pointed out, cosmopolitanism was inherent in Medieval Christianity. Indeed, what were the great trans-European monastic orders, if not exemplars of cosmopolitanism? And what, moreover, is Islam if not a cosmopolitan faith and civilization?

    In partial contrast, it could be pointed out that the Enlightenment was contemporaneous with the development of modern nation states, the rulers of which (despots as well as democrats) sought to harness at least some Enlightenment values to the process of state formation and, in the case of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, to national aggrandisement.

    An interesting and thought-provoking article, though.

    • May 20, 2013


      This from Wipedia “:According to Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, Hitler remained a formal member of the Catholic church until his death, and even ordered his chief associates to remain members; however, it was Speer’s opinion that “he had no real attachment to it.”[2] Biographer John Toland wrote that Hitler was still “a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite his detestation of its hierarchy” and drew links between Hitler’s Catholic background and his antisemitism.”

      It is noteworthy that the Vatican was very involved in aiding Nazis fleeing to South America from prosecution after WWII. This cannot be discounted and is fully documented. The collaboration of the Catholic Church with the fascist brutal Franco regime in Spain is an open fact and cannot be denied. What that says of Christian values is rather obvious.

      That mankind has inherent genetic humanitarian values is not deniable. That it also contains values tending towards social brutality is a daily observable fact. But that mankind nevertheless does cohere successfully socially with or without religious dogmatism more or less proves that social motivations do not depend on religions but is a property of instinctive survivability.

      • May 21, 2013


        I can only repeat that from what we know of Hitler’s religious views, he was not a believing Christian, let alone a believing Catholic.

        There are a great many works that deal with this topic but the most succinct treatment is, to my mind, to be found in Richard Overy’s “The Dictators” (Penguin Books 2004 pp. 280-283).

        Professor Overy comments that Hitler’s private remarks on Christianity reveal a profound contempt and indifference. He cites Hitler telling Himmler that. “The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science” and that there were no lies in science as compared to religious ideas of the afterlife.

        Amongst other citations is one of Hitler telling a dinner gathering that the Nazi Party had nothing to offer anyone with “needs of a metaphysical nature”.

        As Professor Overy further comments: “Truth lay in natural science, and for Hitler that meant the truths of racial biology – natural selection, racial struggle,‘identity of kind”.

        As to the Nazi party as a whole, it certainly had a strongly anti-clerical fringe. Moreover, the party’s “intellectual” guru, Alfred Rosenberg, repeatedly condemned Christianity as alien to German values.

        However, once in power, Hitler reigned in the anti-clericals as part of a broader attempt to make his regime respectable in the eyes of patriotic conservatives. This involved telling members of the party hierarchy to retain church membership, whilst he himself remained formally Catholic.

        Nazi antipathy to Christianity should come as no surprise, as the party had drunk deep not only of bowdlerised Darwin but of bowdlerised Nietzsche as well.

        Yes, of course, Hitler’s Anti-Semitism drew on a deeply embedded meme of European Christianity, which was particularly prevalent in Vienna during his dossing days there. But this meme had infected many who were no longer Christians or who had, in fact, never been Christian.

        And, yes, you’re right that the Vatican helped many Nazis to disappear to South America after World War Two. But that surely tells us far more about the Vatican than about the Nazis.

        And, of course, you’re wholly right about the close identification between the Catholic Church and the Franco regime in Spain.

        If you’ve not already read it, I heartedly recommend Paul Preston’s “The Spanish Holocaust” to you. More than any other work in English, it details both the bloodiness of Franco’s assault upon the Spanish Republic and the deep culpability of much of the clergy.

        But, despite Hitler’s support for the military rebellion, there’s no evidence that he supported it out of religious sympathies as opposed to shared ideological antipathies and Realpolitik.

        Does any of this matter? Yes, I think it does. You (and all those others who keep insisting on Hitler’s Catholicism) seem, for some reason, to want to conflate together all the movements and tendencies of which you don’t approve. But the truth is more complex than that and, if we fail to recognise its complexity, we may well fail to spot a new face of evil before it’s too late.

        As to your final point, it still seems to me that you’re inferring a normative statement (that we should be pro-social) from a factual statement (that we often are pro-social).

        This might well be the best we can do in a world drained by science of moral absolutes. But it fails to provide me with an adequate, reason-based explanation as to why I should always behave pro-socially, even when both my interests and my instincts militate against it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to act pro-socially. But it’s often a matter of conditioning, instinct and habit rather than rational choice.

        I suspect that Enlightenment Deists would be just as shocked as traditional Theists by this erosion of absolutes and the sundering of the link between cosmology, reason and morality . And (to revert to the initial point made in my previous post) that’s another reason why I see them as unlikely heroes for contemporary Atheists.

        • May 21, 2013


          There is a common tendency for those who defend religion to separate it from the actions of the formal organizations that propagate it. As someone devoted to good sense and a very pragmatic view of the world there is so much despicable in the activities of the various theological institutions and their adherents that to divorce the two seems a bit too convenient and totally unjustifiable. If the proclaimed decencies of religion were to have any acceptable force it surely should exist most evidently in the members of the central organizations. The formal religious organizations, almost without exception throughout history, have allied themselves with the wealthy, the politically powerful and also the most oppressive groups in society. And, from my point of view, the mythical basis for most of the religious dogma is so naive, idiotic and undocumentable as to be insane.
          That humanity has consistently formed and maintained coherent societies inspite of the many vicious characteristic of individuals and groups may seem thin philosophical gruel for the consumption of those that believe that there are inherent decencies within humanity without religion, but it is the gruel I must sustain myself on insofar as the obvious nonsense of a universe where superior beings bush buttons to keep it in motion do not at all conform to observations of rather well informed and intelligent people who indicate the universe takes care of itself rather well without any unobserved hidden mechanisms.

          Of course there is still much to learn, and when God rings my doorbell and sits down with me for a cup of coffee to revise my understanding I will try to let you know.

  22. May 21, 2013



    I can’t quite work out what your latest post has to do with my immediately previous one.

    But I do hope that it’s many years before you have your cup of cosmic coffee.

  23. May 21, 2013

    Stephen Kennamer

    It’s clearly late in the game and Victor, Sand, and I may be the only players left. I would like to make a brief contribution here to harmonizing my two colleagues, who seem to agree about much more than they disagree.

    Sand mentioned Hitler’s nominal Catholicism only for the pleasure of smacking down religion in general; Victor seems to view religion in pretty much the same skeptical light. Victor is correct that Hitler’s Catholicism was pro forma and merely politic; and some among the party intellectuals dreamed of an Aryan religion that would supersede Christianity. But a majority of the German soldiers and functionaries who “followed orders” were church-going Christians; they felt no shiver of contradiction when they “did their duty” and administered the Holocaust. Hitler, often shrewd about these matters, chose not to make trouble for himself by butting heads with the Catholic and Lutheran religions, precisely because the average German continued to be a believer. He preferred to co-opt and Nazify the churches, which proved rather easy to do. Sand, I assume, would point to this fact, and to the Vatican’s obscene silence on the subject of rampant European anti-Semitism that was mostly religious in nature and essentially still a matter of Papal doctrine, to support his basic argument.

    I am accustomed to the argument often found among self-styled intellectuals like John Gray that both Nazism and Bolshevism show what happens when we abandon religion. It is useful, therefore, to remind ourselves that the Nazi state was in fact never officially atheistic. But it would be more useful, in my opinion, to understand committed Marxism to be, like committed Freudianism, itself a religion. And I don’t mean a “secular religion,” I mean religion in the unqualified sense. Both propound final answers to all questions about the meaning and purpose of life and how it should be lived day-to-day, and both involve metaphysical propositions as fuzzy and unprovable as the existence of God. As Simone Weil said, it was great fun to ask a communist the meaning of “dialectical materialism” and watch him squirm. Committed Nazism may be a borderline case, being the least metaphysical of the three isms, but Rudolf Hoess could move comfortably from Catholicism to Nazism without missing a step: his personality craved a dogma back by an authoritarian structure that gave him certitude and all the answers, and one was as good as the other.

    The philosopher Susan Neiman has written an entire book corroborating Victor’s view of Enlightenment deism. But she would not agree that the faith of the philosophes was shaken by Hume so much as by the Lisbon earthquake, which she compares to the Holocaust in terms of undermining people’s faith in God’s moral order. The clockwork deity could perhaps be acquitted of human evil by means of all the traditional theological dodges, but why would He have set in motion a natural order that could wipe out indiscriminately the just and the unjust?

    If Enlightenment deists did not resemble modern atheists and secular humanists, nonetheless they called for science, reason, and, of utmost importance, the separation of church and state and an end to the clerical infamy. In my view, the attempt to blame the Enlightenment for all utopian and totalitarian excesses beginning with the French Revolution is over the moon. What a Marxist “struggle session,” with its personal confessions of revisionist and counterrevolutionary sins, most resembles is a Puritan congregation on Sunday morning. Modern totalitarian states resemble Calvin’s Geneva much more than Voltaire’s idea of a rational polity. Here’s John Gray pinning terrorism on the Enlightenment: “Right-thinking French philosophes campaigned for the prohibition of torture, but their ideas also gave birth to the Jacobin Terror that followed the French revolution.” Oh, those culpable philosophes! They campaigned for the prohibition of torture, but they are responsible for it anyway, because people who called themselves followers of the Enlightenment reinstated it. You can’t put one over on John Gray.

    However we might work out the small distance remaining between Sand and Victor, trying to figure out to what extent the Darwinian genetic basis for affiliative behavior can be augmented by our human adoption of a more expansive morality, we will owe almost nothing to the Calvinists who as gladly tortured and executed the social misfits as any modern totalitarian regime and almost everything to the Enlightenment thinkers who opposed them.

  24. May 22, 2013


    Yet lot of people enjoy trying to impose their’s or their group’s ethics of beleif
    on others, something I like to call SADOMORALISM.

    I realy admire the use of pro forma in that context.
    Perhaps deism is the ultimate way to pro forma beleive in the existance of a god.
    In a non comitting to a religion way. And quite convinient too, as it fills all the voids in reach of reason and knoweledge.
    A creator as the ultimate phlogiston.

  25. June 12, 2013

    James Schmidt

    I’ve just posted a discussion of Pagden’s book on my blog ( that picks some nits with his handling of Voltaire (among other things, he confuses who loses a buttock and who doesn’t) and his critique of Alasdair MacIntyre (who I think is an abler critic than Pagden suggests). Still, I think the book is, on the whole, a rather impressive achievement, especially in the way that it explores the relevance of modern natural rights theories for what Pagden terms the Enlightenment’s “science of man.”

  26. June 15, 2013

    Philip Grant

    Pagden brings out very well how the enlightenment’s central concern was the emerging cosmopolis rather than sectarianism, nationalism and imperialism. This view is itself a ‘religion,’ in the classical sense (from the Latin ‘religere’)– that which joins rather divides humanity and nature. The eighteenth century term for asserting the essential unity of all things is the very ‘fraternity’ preached but not practiced by most contemporary belief systems we call religious. Today fraternity would probably be called compassion. The enlightenment’s connection of freedom and equality through the moral energy of compassion is a call for all of us not to eliminate differences but rather transcend attachment to the sense of separateness lying at the root of most of the violence plaguing us today. It forms the basis of civility and civilization. Rather than advancing a ‘static’ vision of the universe, the enlightenment sought to restore the concept of energy as operative in every sphere of life from the moral through the intellectual to the physical. As Pagden well says, enlightenment still matters to the ‘party of humanity’ in every age.

  27. January 6, 2014

    Samrat X

    There are other ways of thinking about our selves and the world. A few people in a largish continent named Asia have also had brains in their heads. But of course, if it’s not from the West, it isn’t philosophy at all.

  28. February 13, 2014


    Grooveshark responded that the pre-1972 recordings sat within the safe harbor of section 512(c) of the DMCA, but UMG argued that the DMCA could not apply to the pre-1972 recordings because that would conflict with s.301(c) of the Copyright Act that nothing in the Act would “annul” or “limit” the common-law copyright protections attendant to any sound recordings fixed before 15 February 1972

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Ollie Cussen
Ollie Cussen is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Chicago. @olliecussen 

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