Challenges to the Enlightenment: In Defense of Reason and Science

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Prometheus Books, 1994 - Philosophy - 319 pages
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The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which began in seventeenth-century Europe and espoused an optimistic project: an end to human ignorance and the slavish adherence to ancient texts and dogma; the application of scientific principles to solving the world's problems; the elimination of inequality between the sexes; and the advocacy of political rights for all citizens. Modern western society, with its democratic institutions and its reliance on science as the basis of technology and industry, is largely an outgrowth of Enlightenment ideals. Yet today the entire Enlightenment agenda is being challenged, not only by members of the religious orthodoxy but also by a group of academics loosely described under the label of "postmodernism". Whereas the Enlightenment project has always been at odds with religious orthodoxy, which has traditionally been suspicious of efforts to achieve human progress without supernatural support, today it must deal with a very different type of attack from postmodernist intellectuals. Critics of this school question the very ability of human reason to grasp objective reality, and they raise serious objections to the reliability and efficiency of the scientific method and the "tyranny of democratic elites". Is the Enlightenment project still worth pursuing? The distinguished members of the Academy of Humanism who have contributed to this important collection of essays are united in their conviction that the ideals of the Enlightenment must be preserved. Editors Paul Kurtz and Timothy J. Madigan have grouped the diverse perspectives represented in this volume into three major sections dealing with philosophical issues, scientific issues, and socialissues. These cogently argued and vigorous responses to traditional and postmodernist criticisms of the Enlightenment make it clear that reason, science, and the political and social ideals of the Enlightenment are indispensable for the welfare and future of our planet.

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Preface by Paul Kurtz
CounterEnlightenment in Contemporary Social Studies
Hostility to Science

18 other sections not shown

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About the author (1994)

Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including The Transcendental Temptation, The Courage to Become, and Embracing the Power of Humanism, plus nine hundred articles and reviews. He was the founder and chairman of the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He appeared on many major television and radio talk shows and lectured at universities worldwide.

Timothy J. Madigan is an assistant professor of philosophy at St. John Fisher College and a member of the editorial board of Philosophy Now magazine. For many years he was editor of Free Inquiry magazine.

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