C O U R S E L E C T U R E
Enlightenment or Empire
Notes taken on February 3, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
questioning the aim of science
giving voice to an important key to the Enlightenment
that one had to now be skeptical of the world
skeptical about claims and subject them to rational, scientific inquiry
a man of reason had to query all verities, to prove them to be true, not simply to assume them to be true
some began to query whether the empire was good for the Enlightenment at all
empire helped produce science
empire was the "backdrop of the Enlightenment"
the Enlightenment could contribute to the renovation, reinvention, or reform of the empire
some began to realize if empire was not, in some fundamental way, a threat to the Enlightenment itself
that there was a fundamental choice to make
we often think that resistances to imperial enlightenment came from the colonial peoples
Hawaiian islanders who captured Captain Cook
but within Europe, many people were getting the sense that Enlightenment ideas were incompatible to the practices of the empire
as empire spread the Enlightenment, it was also sowing the seeds of its own destruction
as Europeans ventured out in the world, their conquering and colonizing habits betrayed their own faith in reason and science
the discourse of the Enlightenment could be used again empires themselves
how to believe in universal reason while at the same time ruling people who you do not feel capable of living in society
you find many thoughts and theories about racial differences between men
argued that they were "uplifting the native"
"bringing inferior peoples into civil society"
even if they didn't want to
it was believed that it was for their own good
gradations of inferiority
e.g. from casta paintings, one could deduce that some mixtures of races were "closer to being able to reason" than others
a kind of "classification mania of peoples in the 18th century"
a character that would loom very large in the social sciences
De Las Casas argued that the noble savage could not be enslaved but had not heard God's word yet
therefore they could not be oppressed
his view was a new way of seeing people who lived in "natural societies"
they "lived in a world which God created but had not yet been subjected to God's Word"
"natural man" as opposed to "modern man"
book: "The Social Contract"
books create theories and stories and models of the world for other people to consume and think about
this book was a blast, a critique against the miseries of civil society and property
"men are born free but in civil society everywhere we are in chains"
there was something restraining about civil society that natural man was not subject to
the natural liberties of the state of nature vs. the oppressions of civil society
"that first theorist who felt that modernity was an oppressive experience"
has a long biography itself which will wind itself to anti-colonial discourses in the 19th and 20th centuries
led to theories by Karl Marx, whose theory of alienation would profoundly shape global history
however, there are reasons to resist this straight-line progression from Rousseau to Marx to modern revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries
was reading reports like those of Captain Cook
not only reporting on natural man, but actually bringing them back in person to be studied, e.g. the Huron and Algonquin people
being held up as exemplars of natural man in contrast to civilized, social man of Europe with an echo of concern and anxiety that there was something pure and good about the savage that the European man had given up by his membership in civil society
increasing terms of corruptions of natural man in make that passage to modern society
painting: "Noble Savage"
caused an immediate sensation
was part of a larger work
the death of General Wolfe
died at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham
on the outskirts of Quebec City
English had just defeated the French armies
a pivotal moment in the Seven Years' War and in the history of Canada. A British invasion force led by General James Wolfe defeated French troops under the Marquis de Montcalm, leading to the surrender of Québec to the British
we see Nobel Savage in diminished pose
looking peacefully upon the death of the British commander
almost a bystander to the epic of empire and European sacrifice
made people ask the question: who is more human in this portrait?
colonization is turning men like Wolfe into the very barbarians that they seek to submit
having to practice forms of suppression that they themselves denounce
others were worried that empire was bringing corruption home
book: "Histoire Philosophique et Politique"
examined commerce, religion, slavery, and other popular subjects, all with a perspective from the French Enlightenment
a kind of history of the world, one might say one of the first global histories ever written
in the end, nowhere does this notion that the Enlightenment was revealing the intrinsic incompatibility of empire with science and civilization than in the treatment of Africans
the enslavement of millions of Africans was, many Enlightenment men believed, fundamentally a threat, a menace, a danger to the Enlightenment itself.
enslavement threatened to undermine the enslavers themselves
out of this view that there was something fundamentally incompatible between the enslavement of some of God's creatures that we see the birth of the abolitionist movement
Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797)
"The Life of Olaudah Equiano"
one of the great books circulating around the English speaking world
enslaved and sold and shipped to the Americas
released by his Christian owner
a blast against the slave trade as fundamentally at odds against the universal precepts of Enlightenment thought
commerce and trading was fine, but not commerce and trading in peoples