Reviving the Radical Enlightenment: Process Philosophy and the Struggle for Democracy

In Franz Riffert & Hans-Joachim Sanders (eds.), Researching with Whitehead: System and Adventure. 21729 Freiburg, Germany: pp. 25-57 (2008)
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The central thesis defended here is that modernity can best be understood as a struggle between two main traditions of thought: the Radical or “True” Enlightenment celebrating the world and life as creative and promoting the freedom of people to control their own destinies, and the Moderate or “Fake” Enlightenment which developed to oppose the democratic republicanism and nature enthusiasm of the Radical Enlightenment. While the Radical Enlightenment has promoted democracy, the central concern of the Moderate Enlightenment has been to promote “possessive individualism” and the control of nature and people by discovering their laws of behaviour. While it has on occasion promoted religious tolerance and freedom of expression, the greater concern of the Moderate Enlightenment has always been defence of property rights and the power of those with property. It is argued here that process philosophy is the highest development of the philosophy of the Radical Enlightenment and needs to be appreciated as such if the Radical Enlightenment is to be revived and process philosophy advanced.
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