تحويل مسار التنوير / Le Détournement des Lumières



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تودوروڤ, تزڤتان; Todorov, Tzvetan; الخشاب, وليد; el-Khachab, Walid

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The principles of human rights based on the humanist ideal and derived from the secularization of ethics and the triumph of reason appeared in the eighteenth century in the writings of Montesquieu and Rousseau. Although these principles inspired revolutions in the West and led to the rise of modern democracies, yet recent European history has also been accompanied with colonial exploitation and totalitarian repression. The failure of the Enlightenment is sometimes blamed on its intrinsic deficiencies and at other times on Romanticism. The article examines three influential nineteenth century French writers: Renan, Michelet and Chateaubriand. It analyzes through close reading their writings and how the principles of the Enlightenment were deflected, compromised and betrayed, even if not denounced. Renan moves from the rational and scientific outlook of the Enlightenment to scientism, turning science into a new cult. Furthermore, in his definition of nation, he charges the concept with racial overtones and presumes a hierarchy of races. As for Michelet, he merges -- through a tour de force -- patriotism with cosmopolitanism, even though the Enlightenment contrasted them and gave priority to humanity over one's national affiliation. France, paradoxically, became for Michelet the universal fatherland and thus the distinction between French and universal interests ceased. From then on, Michelet expressed his condescension for the Other while maintaining a humanistic pose. Chateaubriand, on the other hand, wavered between universalism and self-centeredness. Gradually he moved towards the latter. In his voyage to the Orient, he reported candidly on his feelings: the Orient supplied him with images for his books but bored him otherwise. The article argues that the historical deflection of the Enlightenment project lies in the repression of holistic values and the rise of individualistic ideology. The imbalance between the sense of a whole and the sense of the individual, in favor of the latter, led to the appearance of the whole in a monstrous form: racism and totalitarianism.]

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