Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Over on Noodlefood, Greg Perkins describes an article by Ed Hudgins as:

"largely argued from mushy appeals to a toothless foundation in Enlightenment-era sensibilities back when rights were barely a tolerant gleam in philosophers' eyes."

I think he has his history wrong. Weren't rights a lot more than eye-gleams during the Enlightenment?

I don't quote Leonard Peikoff a lot, but what the heck, when he's right, he's right:

"Although the Enlightenment spread across Europe, introducing a liberalizing influence wherever its ideas were taken seriously (notably in England and France), there was no European country in which these ideas penetrated to the root. In Europe, the Enlightenment was in the nature of an intellectual fashion superimposed on antithetic and deeply entrenched sociopolitical structures. But the United States was a new country, a new country in a new world, and there was no such established structure to contend with. For the first and only time, the ideas of the Enlightenment became the root, the actual foundation of a nation's political institutions."

Pie-in-the-sky dreams?
They laid this nation's


Michelle F. Cohen said...

Unlike Dr. Peikoff's account, which contrasts the Enlightenment in Europe with that of the U.S., Mr. Hudgins describes the Enlightenment in Europe and the U.S. as one harmonious process:

"This cycle of violence and repression was broken in late seventeenth century Europe by the Enlightenment. During that period individuals and the culture of the West turned more to reason as the path to knowledge, prosperity, and a peaceful social order—and thus away from faith and force. Enlightenment principles culminated in the American Revolution."

Michelle F. Cohen said...

To illustrate the state of free thought and free speech in Europe at the height of the 18th Century, here is a sample on Voltaire:

"Banned from Paris by France's Catholic king, Voltaire moved to Geneva. He quickly irked Swiss authorities, who burned one of his books. He then moved to a chateau a few miles from Saint-Genis-Pouilly and wrote a 'Treatise on Tolerance.' He later campaigned in vain to reverse a blasphemy conviction against a French noble, who was tortured, beheaded and then incinerated -- along with a copy of Voltaire's 'Philosophical Dictionary.'"


Anonymous said...

I don't see "one harmonious process" anywhere in your quote from Hudgins.

Michelle F. Cohen said...

Hudgins does not differentiate between the Enlightenment in Europe and the Enlightenment in America. He describes the Enlightenment as one process, that started in Europe and culimnated in America, without any contrast between the two continents.

Anonymous said...

You call Dr. Peikoff "Dr. Peikoff" but you call Dr. Hudgins "Mr. Hudgins."

Dr. Hudgins doesn't detail the differences in a two sentence reference, and you call that a failure to differentiate?

Michelle F. Cohen said...

Anonymous, please provide your real name if you wish to continue this conversatoin.

Anonymous said...

This conversation is over.

Michelle F. Cohen said...

For the benefit of innocent surfers, I quoted the entire section on the Enlightenment from Hudgins's article. I pointed out the contrast between his view and that of Peikoff. The "failure to differentiate" is how Anonymous sees it, not me.

JohnJEnright said...

Peikoff and Hudgins probably do have some differences in their views of the enlightenment. I would be shocked if their views of the enlightenment were identical! It would be an interesting topic to explore. I must say I don't know what these differences would be at this point. I can't see that your Hudgins quotation contradicts either Peikoff's view or the facts about the enlightement that you put forth as being the case. I expect Hudgins knows the enlightenment wasn't strictly a harmonious progression, since he mentions the American Revolution, which was manifestly non-harmonious. I would expect he knows the difference between the European and American enlightenments, since, again, he mentions the American Revolution and I presume he knows it was not duplicated elsewhere. Of course, my original post was on Peikoff's view vs. Perkins' view. Thanks for commenting! -John

Michelle F. Cohen said...

I realize that your original post was on Perkins vs. Peikoff. However, Perkins referred to what Hudings said in a specific article. That's why the difference between your quote from Peikoff and my quote from Hudgins matters.