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Daniel Purdy

Abstract

The media scandal surrounding Christian Wolff’s 1721 Lecture on the Practical Philosophy of the Chinese marks the entry of German academia into the broader debates around Radical Enlightenment. Within the terms of Jonathan Israel’s argument, Wolff’s lecture shows how Chinese culture was deployed subversively within western philosophy. The academic debates also signal a new found German concern to extend Christian missions into Asia. Wolff’s praise for Confucianism and the Pietist’s response constitute the first German controversy about Europe’s global relations. This paper argues that Wolff’s speech must be evaluated in relation to Catholic and Protestant missionary work in Asia.

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Peter Höyng

Abstract

Eulogius Schneider (1756–1794), an educated monk from Franconia who became a professor and then radical Jacobin in Strasbourg before falling victim to the guillotine in Paris, does not fit into Jonathan Israel’s bifocal differentiation between the promulgated Radical and the disparaged Moderate Enlightenment. Whereas Schneider’s ending of his political career serves as a paradigm for the dubious realization of radical philosophical ideas through radical political action, his earlier life can be viewed as a model of and for Volksaufklärung. While Schneider’s public and political life points us to Israel’s blind spots in his Enlightenment narrative, Israel helps us to see Schneider’s biography within the larger context of the Enlightenment.

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John A. McCarthy

Abstract

The Enlightenment was a watershed event of reform and renewal that transformed society. With his concepts of radical, moderate and counter Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel inspired debate on the Enlightenment’s contours. This essay examines those concepts against the backdrop of Ernst Cassirer’s ‘attitude of mind’ and Rudolf Vierhaus’s notion of process without end. These concepts stretch the movement’s essence well into our own time and across disciplinary borders. Motion is a major metaphor for mental operations. Like the English radical freethinker Anthony Collins seventy years before him, Christoph Martin Wieland firmly believed that great benefits would accrue to society through the freedom to philosophize on any matter. Wieland’s emphasis on cosmopolitanism serves as a paradigm for understanding the nature of ‘radical’ Enlightenment. Because his insistence that tolerance and human dignity are liberal positions, whereas his call to maintain order is conservative, Wieland can be characterized as a ‘moderate liberal’. His approach is the middle way between the extremes of too much and too little freedom of speech.

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Andrew Weeks

Abstract

Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment appears in a different light when read in conjunction with George H. Williams’ Radical Reformation and Israel’s own history of The Dutch Republic. The radical dissent of the Reformation and its aftermath extended to Holland, influencing Spinoza’s milieu and creating preconditions for his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670). The radical turn attributed by Israel to Spinoza appears less unprecedented when juxtaposed with its extended Reformation background, including the German speculative or mystical dissenters who anticipated his themes.

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Monika Nenon

Abstract

Taking Jonathan Israel’s division of the Enlightenment into different camps as a starting point, this essay focuses on Rousseau’s novel Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse and several prominent German authors such as Sophie von La Roche, Goethe, and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and the way they creatively responded to that work. Special attention is given to the female protagonists with a view to the conception of gender exhibited through them and the ideas of happiness and love that motivate them. It turns out that Rousseau’s notion of gender cannot easily be subsumed under any of the common headings and that it is taken up in different ways by each of these authors.

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Carl Niekerk

Abstract

In recent years, Jonathan Israel has argued for the existence of a progressive and emancipatory Radical Enlightenment with roots in the writings of a group of international, heterodox, and often societally marginalized eighteenth-century thinkers who questioned the power structures and orthodoxies of their time. The following essay discusses and engages with some frequent criticisms of Jonathan Israel’s theory of the Enlightenment by proposing a dynamic, relational, and situational interpretation of the key terms ‘Radical’ and ‘Moderate’ in his work. Considering in particular the German contexts of Israel’s theories, the essay first looks at the reshuffling of different national Enlightenment traditions proposed in his work, while simultaneously pointing to the trans-national elements present in Israel’s concept of Enlightenment. As a next step, the essay looks at both the Moderate and Radical Enlightenment as forms of interplay between theory and practice. Finally, the essay asks what the consequences of Israel’s theoretical framework are for the study of literature and culture, focusing in particular on late-eighteenth-century German literary history.

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Chunjie Zhang

Abstract

This article focuses on the German Enlightenment historian Matthias Christian Sprengel (1746–1803) and his writings on slavery and the American Revolution. While Jonathan Israel emphasizes the quintessential role that philosophy played in the establishment and development of the Radical Enlightenment, I argue that Sprengel’s method of writing history is an alternative method of spreading Radical Enlightenment ideas of democracy, religious tolerance, and abolitionism. Historical realism, as I call it, is Sprengel’s narrative strategy that, not necessarily always fact-oriented, definitely intends to imagine a society of democratic government in the time of aristocracy.

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Sean Franzel

Abstract

This essay compares ideas of spatial storage at work in eighteenth-century periodicals with various spatial metaphors deployed by intellectual historians of the Enlightenment, including by Jonathan Israel with his notion of the ‘package logic’ of radical thinking. As a model of gathering and storing various entities in a single location, the metaphor of the magazine guided important print periodicals and served as a point of orientation for eighteenth-century reflections about the larger print landscape and public sphere. The metaphor of the magazine engages the tension between theoretical design and the practice of knowledge production for it implies the drive toward both order and coherence and heterogeneity and asystematicity.

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Paul S. Spalding

Abstract

Jonathan Israel appears not to credit sufficiently how ‘moderates’ could contribute in practice to the agenda of the Radical Enlightenment. General Lafayette struck compromises with the old order in France up to 1792, for instance, but only so as to promote radical values that he had pursued from youth and would continue to pursue for the rest of his long life. Liberal or centrist sympathizers, particularly those in London and Hamburg, provide another instance. During Lafayetteʼs incarceration and exile in 1792–1799, they supported him financially, maintained secret communications, plotted breakouts, and publicized his case. By defying the traditional order and helping enable his release and eventual return to public activity, they too promoted the radical agenda.

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Mary Helen Dupree

Abstract

Taking Jonathan Israel’s trilogy on ‘Radical Enlightenment’ and his commentary on Goethe’s idiosyncratic approach to Spinozism as points of departure, this essay investigates how Goethe promoted his own unique vision of ‘Radical Enlightenment’ in the Weimar and Bad Lauchstädt theaters, in particular through the memorial performances he staged in Schiller’s honor in the months following Schiller’s death in 1805. These Schiller memorials served Goethe’s project of ‘secular paternalism’, using theater to transform social and individual life on the micro-level while upholding the outward structures of absolutism and courtly hierarchy. Goethe’s radically experimental approach to theater and ritual is also reflected in the innovative and eclectic structure of these staged memorials, which took place in the secular ‘temple’ of the theater rather than in religiously connoted spaces.