THE ENLIGHTENMENT PROJECT
Instructor: John Dwyer
Office Hours: Mondays (except a monthly Division Meeting )
Office Phone: 416-736-2100 extension 66983
COURSE TIME AND PLACE: Wednesdays -- in South Ross 202
First Class is Wednesday, September 5th
This course examines the challenge and critique of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. In addition to familiarizing you with classic enlightenment texts and writers such as Smith, Diderot, Millar, Schiller, Hume, Kant and Rousseau, this course explores the ways that contemporary thinkers like Derrida, Foucault, Habermas, Adorno, Lyotard and Luhman have absorbed, engaged and either rejected the Enlightenment completely or attempted to resurrect its more positive and hopeful aspects.
The eighteenth-century enlightenment project was an attempt to create a rational, progressive and cultivated society based upon the empirically discovered and/or logically deduced laws of nature and human nature. Its dynamic spirit was a critique of accepted values and a search for truth. A number of contemporary thinkers argue that the Enlightenment project failed because it either naively ignored or deliberately obscured the symbolic or discursive nexus of rationality and social actuality, thereby contributing to economic, cultural and technological domination by particular groups – i.e. males, capitalists and scientific experts. To use the language of continental critical theory, the Enlightenment regressed into ideology and its cultural vision became so detached from lifeword as to offer no serious resistance to commodification.
The course readings disentangle several of the deconstructionist and postmodern elements within this contemporary critique – a critique that has been enormously influential in delineating new and more inclusive directions for the humanities and social sciences. At the same time, by exploring the complexities and subtleties within the Enlightenment project, and showing how contemporary authors have gained and continue to gain insights in response to this canonical literature, students hopefully will develop a more sophisticated understanding of the uses, abuses and future potential of the Enlightenment search for truth.
The intrinsic difficulty of the readings, the comparative and non-linear approach, and the interdisciplinarity (bridging literary, philosophical, political, social and communicative theories) means that this course will be demanding for the instructor as well as the students. It should also be extremely exciting. You will need to come to class prepared to engage and discuss the readings. A large percentage of the course grade goes to participation. In papers for this course, you will be expected develop your own perspective and concomitant analysis of the continuing dialectic between the Enlightenment project and our postmodern condition.
Since this is a course that requires discussion, active reading and in-depth writing, the grading will be confined to class discussion and to two 15 - page (3,750 word) papers. The marking of the papers be slightly staggered (30% and 40%) so that students have a better opportunity to determine and meet the instructor’s expectations. Participation carries an additional 30% for a total of 100%. The papers are due by the last class of each term. We will be discussing the exact nature of the papers in class.
The readings (or most of them) should be available in the bookstore
under the course code in the Humanities section. But cheaper editions of some of these books
can be discovered in
* Refers to books that can be found online. Shiller and Kant are in electronic form at
John Millar’s Origin of the Distinction of Ranks is at
Other eighteenth-century texts probably are also available online if you look for them. Don’t bother looking for Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages; however, I don’t think you’ll find it.
** Refers to short excerpts that I will be providing as handouts
Meet with students.
D’Alambert Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot
Immanuel Kant: **What is Enlightenment?
“Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” from The Foucault Reader
Cesare Beccaria On Crimes and Punishments
Michel Foucault “DISCIPLINES AND SCIENCES OF THE INDIVIDUAL”, The Foucault Reader, pp. 169 – 256
Denis Diderot Rameau’s Nephew
Antoine-Nicholas de Condorcet **“Sketch of the Progress of the Human Mind”
Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Arno Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming, (New York: Continuum, 1969), “The Concept of Enlightenment” and “Excursus I: Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment”. If you have time, also take a look at “Notes and Drafts”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay on the Origin of Languages on reserve
Jacques Derrida Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1976), PART II, NATURE, CULTURE, WRITING, Section 3. Feel free to read Sections 1, 2 and 4. If you really have bundles of time, try to read the earlier sections from Derrida that will give you a better idea of his concepts of difference, trace and arche-writing.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Julie or the New Heloise
Sections to be determined.
Adam Smith The Theory of Moral Sentiments
John Dwyer Virtuous Discourse
David Hume *A Treatise of Human Nature, Book One, skim parts I and II, read the other sections more carefully
Gilles Deleuze Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature, trans. Constantin V. Boundas, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), focus especially on chapters 5 and 6
Immanuel Kant *Critique of Pure Reason, “Intro to Transcendental Logic”
Immanuel Kant *Critique of Pure Reason, “Transcendental Doctrine of Method”
Jürgen Habermas Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen, (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1993), “Introduction”, “Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification” and “Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action”
John Millar Origin of the Distinction of Ranks
Niklas Luhmann Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy, trans. Jeremy Gaines and Doris L. Jones, (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), chapters 1-13
Frederich Schiller *Letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man + reserve
Jean-François Lyotard The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984). Be sure to read it all including Forward and Postscript.
Marquis de Sade Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings (selections to be determined)
** short selection from Juliette
Horkheimer and Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment, “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality”
Georges Bataille The Story of the Eye
These biographical details may change if certain editions
become unavailable or less available.
Generally, volumes of these texts will be available at the
Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye, trans. Joachim Neugroschel, (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1987)
Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, trans. David Young, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1986)
Jean Le Rond D’Alembert, Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot, tans Richard N. Schwab, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995)
Gilles Deleuze, Empiricism
and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature, trans.
Constantin V. Boundas (
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1998)
Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew/D”Alembert’s Dream, (Penguin Books: 1976)
John Dwyer, Virtuous Discourse: Sensibility and
Community in Late Eighteenth-Century
The Foucault Reader, ed Paul Rabinow, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984)
Jürgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans by Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990)
Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1975)
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, (Penguin Books, 1986)
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, (Prometheus Books, 1990)
Niklas Luhmann, Love
As Passion: The Codification of Intimacy, ed. Jeremy Gaines and
Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984)
John Millar, The
Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, (
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages and Discourse on the Arts and Sciences on reserve
The Marquis de Sade, The Marquis de Sade: Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings, trans. Austyn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver (Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated, 1990)
Frederich Von Shiller, Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man, (Kissinger Publishing)
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (Liberty Fund, 1982)
Suggested additional readings:
Ed. Samantha Ashenden & David Owen, Foucault Contra Habermas: Recasting the Dialogue between Genealogy and Critical Theory, (London: Sage, 1999) on reserve
Zygmunt Bauman, Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality, (Blackwell, 1998)
Cornelius Castoriadis, World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis and the Imagination, (Stanford, 1997)
Ed. Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: A Comprehensive Anthology, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973) on reserve
Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence, (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1987) on reserve
Niklas Luhmann, Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity, (Stanford, 2002).
David McNally, Political Economy
and the Rise of Capitalism: A Reinterpretation, (
Thomas Osborne, Aspects of Enlightenment: Social Theory and the Ethics of Truth, (Lantham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998) on reserve
Franco Rella, The Myth of the Other: Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze, Bataille, trans. Nelson Moe, (Washington: Maisonneuve Press, 1994) on reserve
Sometimes when I teach this course, I pair the following two books to illuminate the Enlightenment sources of communitarianism.
Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the
History of Civil Society, (
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, (Nortre Dame, 2003)