The Present of Enlightenment

Helge Jordheim

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
The Present of Enlightenment

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This chapter analyzes how Kant, Foucault, and Jean Paul negotiate a central contradiction of Enlightenment. On the one hand, each insists, within their distinct discursive itinerary, that the value and promise of Enlightenment consists in the way it allows us to think the present, the distinctness of the present age, and build a “now” that requires a certain ethos: “a voluntary choice made by certain people; in the end, a way of thinking and feeling; a way, too, of acting and behaving that at one and the same time marks a relation of belonging and presents itself as a task” (Foucault). Without this sense of a present, how could a task like political revolution be attempted? The chapter demonstrates that each of these writers, in their different ways, runs up against the inevitability that the “present” of Enlightenment not only entails temporal deferrals and spatial differences. Crucially, Enlightenment can only materialize within the various mediations of speech, writing, print, and image.

Keywords: political revolution; Enlightenment; temporal deferrals; spatial differences; mediation; speech; writing; print; image

Chapter.  8901 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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