The Enlightenment is back. In public debate, in the media and in political speech, the Enlightenment is a live issue. It is invoked as a constitutive feature of modernity and often rhetorically crafted as a signifier of distinctively Western values and institutions.
From Tuesday 27 August until Thursday 5 September, the Philosophy Department of the University of Antwerp organizes a two-week summer school on the Enlightenment in Current Public Debate. The issue is explored from two different perspectives. During the first week, the focus is on the historical legacy of the Enlightenment. Starting from the eighteenth-century debate on the question “What is enlightenment?”, we will reflect on some of the major historical sources, ideas and narratives of the past two and a half centuries informing contemporary views on (the) enlightenment. The second week concentrates on prominent references to the Enlightenment within public and political discourses of our own time. In the often heated debates on liberal democracy, human rights, globalization, migration, and cultural identity, we will attempt to identify some of the typically twenty-first-century uses of the term ‘Enlightenment’. Combining the historical and contemporary perspectives, our summer school seeks to help explain the appeal of the Enlightenment in current public debate, while highlighting its potentially problematic aspects in relation to racism, (neo-)liberalism, and cultural imperialism.