Philosophy: The Enlightenment and its Critics

Ref: C2339791

Enlightenment thinking is characterized by the expectation that rational enquiry will discover the truth and improve people's lives, and by a commitment to the right to self-determination (individual and political). We will examine different meanings of these convictions through ideas from thinkers in and around the 18th century including Voltaire, Hume, Rousseau and Kant. The course will also consider the criticisms of Enlightenment ideas at the time - based on tradition or authority (religious or political) and on Romantic views of human (and divine) nature.

Course aim

An exploration of key Enlightenment developments – from rationalism and science to individualism and democracy – and their critics, from tradition and authority to Romantic self-expression.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • name key intellectual and moral Enlightenment claims
  • give an account of arguments from tradition and authority at the time
  • explain and evaluate Enlightenment arguments regarding progress in understanding the world, using examples from a particular thinker if possible
  • explain and evaluate Enlightenment arguments regarding progress in improving human societies, using examples from a particular thinker if possible
  • give an account of Romantic reactions and alternatives to Enlightenment ideas

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • study sources : Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, article 'Enlightenment' for an overview

Download full course information sheet

Philosophy: The Enlightenment and its Critics

Enrolment Conditions

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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