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French Enlightenment ideals

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How mystics, radicals, and philosophers shared heretical sights from the self in 18th-century France.

The standard consensus around the Enlightenment describes a compellingly simple narrative. It shows humankind’s emergence in the shadows of blind belief and self-denial to the discovery of the path illumined by reason, utility, and sociability. Because the story goes, this passage brought for an unparalleled feeling of personal and collective agency inside a world where guy, instead of God, was because the principal measure of other nutritional foods. Together with the possessive, autonomous individual came about the watershed ideologies of liberalism and secularism, causing revolutions both in that old world and also the new.

This book suggests the privileges attending liberalism came about just as much from requires violent self-sacrifice for the person quest for happiness.

Obviously, nothing—particularly history—is so cut-and-dried, that is where history professor, Charly Coleman, is available in. His new book, The Benefits of Abandon, provides a fundamental reinterpretation from the French Enlightenment. It will so by discovering the opposing strands of anti-individualist sentiment that went with the traditions of heretical Christian mystics, the salons from the materialist philosophes, and also the French Revolution’s cult of loyal self-sacrifice. All these groups, in their own individual way, spurned the thought of individual self-possession in support of a perfect of dispossession that, while frequently overlooked, bore a similarly crucial affect on thought and experience of eighteenth-century France.

Accepting just the predominant line around the French Enlightenment, using its undue focus on triumphant individualism, has already established profoundly distorting effects. It not just impoverishes our knowledge of a historic moment where the values that inform today's world required shape, but additionally perpetuates a misapprehension of the items these ideals have meant and really should mean. Based on Coleman, the complex interplay between individualist and anti-individualist ideals clarifies both character from the Enlightenment being an intellectual movement as well as the surprising contingencies which have marked a brief history of selfhood. Within the interest of higher understanding this dynamic and it is significance, we requested Professor Coleman a couple of questions regarding the Enlightenment and anti-individualism.


It explores that which you describe as an “unholy trinity” composed of Christian mystics, materialist philosophers, and political radicals. Exactly what do you mean with this term? What came these apparently disparate stars together, and just what threat did they pose to things as they are from the period?


The expression “unholy trinity” captures two central facets of anti-individualist thought throughout in france they Enlightenment.

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