6AAH3027/28 The Enlightenment
Credit value: 60 (or optional 30 credits for combined honours students)
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Niall O'Flaherty
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list
Assessment: 1 x 3-hour examination (30 credits), 1 x 10,000 word dissertation (30 credits - optional for combined honours students).
The eighteenth century in Europe was a period of bold intellectual experimentation in which some of society’s most cherished social, political and religious ideas were challenged. The transformation of intellectual culture which ensued was partly the result of a revolution in scientific method, but attempts by prominent thinkers in the period to place the study of man on these newly-laid natural philosophical foundations were equally important. The core aim of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the debates arising from this enterprise in their historical and intellectual contexts, with particular emphasis being placed on the social, political and religious dimensions of such controversies. The module will feature themes such as the sceptical assault on religion, ‘rational Christianity’, the science of politics, attitudes to Commercial society, the American and French Revolutions and the impact of contact with non-European civilisations on European thought. Students will become familiar with a number of key interventions in debates on these issues through a detailed study of primary texts. The course treats the Enlightenment as a European-wide phenomenon, and therefore includes works by thinkers from across the continent, including David Hume, John Locke, Voltaire, Vico, Rousseau, Kant and Bernard Mandeville. As well as engaging in detailed historical analysis of Enlightenment texts, the course will explore historiographical debates about whether the diversity of preoccupations of eighteenth-century men of letters and the variety of historical contexts in which they wrote means it is no longer possible to talk meaningfully about the Enlightenment, but only about Enlightenments. Such reflections will give an impetus to comparative study.