The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters

The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters
Anthony Pagden

The Enlightenment has always meant different things to different people, but the fact that, three hundred years later, we continue to argue about its meaning and impact shows that it does still matter. For Anthony Pagden its essence lies in the development of a “cosmopolitan” philosophy or science of universal humanity. That spirit lives on in our own international legal and political institutions and globalized networks of commerce, even though we’re less optimistic (to put it mildly) about such developments than they were. And so one of the ways the Enlightenment matters today lies in how it shows us how that universalizing impulse can be imagined as part of a more positive and liberating vision of the future rather than just a fig leaf for neo-imperialism.