FILO Filosofi i kontekst:


Sabrina Ebbersmeyer and David Possen


What is Enlightenment?


In contemporary debates, the Enlightenment plays an ambivalent role. It is considered a decisive chapter of our past, which set the tracks for the emergence of the modern sciences and of the modern state and, as such, for the modern European identity. Yet, this heritage also has its dark sides which are becoming more and more apparent. Exploitation of nature, animals and humans, environmental problems, persistent gender inequality, growing nationalism and racism are some of the major concerns that call on us to re-think our intellectual past. Shall we save the Enlightenment and its ideas about the universality of reason, scientific progress, religious and political tolerance, emancipation, and human rights? Or should we give up the project of Enlightenment as causing more harm than benefit?

This class offers an intensive study of some of the main philosophical ideas and achievements of this era. We will combine the reading of classical texts with works written by non-canonical figures, such as women philosophers, philosophers of color and non-Christian philosophers. With a critical perspective we will re-assess the ambivalent nature of the concept of science and scientific method as well as reflect on the political ideas of the state, religious tolerance, freedom of speech, gender and race.

The readings include amongst others, texts by D’Alembert, Baruch de Spinoza, Anton William Amo, Moses Mendelssohn, Olympe de Gouges, Immanuel Kant, and Horkheimer/Adorno.



Background reading:

  • Michael A. Peters. “The enlightenment and its critics”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, (2019) 51:9, 886-894. DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2018.1537832.
  • Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment [1932], tr. Fritz C.A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove, Boston: Beacon, 1955.
  • Max Horkheimer/ Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944, 47). Ed. G.S. Noerr, trans. E. Jephcott, Stanford: University Press, 2002.
  • Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750, Oxford: OUP 2001.
Engelsk titel

FILO Philosophy in Context:


Kandidatuddannelsen i Filosofi, 2019-ordningen:

Filosofi i kontekst:  HFIK04071E

Kandidattilvalg på filosofi, 2019-ordningen

Filosofi i kontekst: HFIK14071E


At the examination, the student is able to demonstrate:


Knowledge and understanding of:

  • key concepts, theories and arguments in a philosophical text belonging to the past
  • influential interpretations of the text concerned and of its context, including its historical and institutional context
  • the latest tools and reference works used to determine the context of a selected text.


Skills to:

  • describe and analyse philosophical aspects of the selected text, as well as its context
  • make a description using the latest standards in the field of the history of philosophy with regard to citation, referencing and documentation
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the selected text and other influential interpretations of the text in question.


Competencies to:

  • analyse complex texts belonging to past philosophy
  • assess the extent of contextualisation for the selected texts belonging to past philosophy
  • give a clear, well-documented and well-argued written and oral presentation of selected aspects of a text belonging to the past, and of its context.

The course is conducted as seminars

Which books should I acquire before the course?

To be announced later


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