Has the Enlightenment Failed?

Ref: C2340689

It has been claimed over the last few decades that Enlightenment promises have not been fulfilled - that our understanding of and control over the world is less than hoped and that societies have if anything become less fair and more violent. We will consider how to interpret these claims and assess to what extent they are justified, and in so far as they are justified, what the options are for responding to them in thought and action. This will include an assessment of whether its critics accurately represent claims made by Enlightenment thinkers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant, and a consideration of Stephen Pinker's case for the success of modernity.

Course aim

An opportunity to interpret and evaluate claims that the Enlightenment (or 'modernity') has failed - that our understanding of and control over the world is less than hoped and that societies have if anything become less fair and more violent.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for improvers

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

  • state at least two claims that the Enlightenment has failed, using different interpretations if possible
  • explain - with examples - to what extent the critics' claims of failure accurately represent the position of at least one Enlightenment thinker
  • summarize Stephen Pinker's arguments in relation to science or human society (or both)
  • On the basis of 1. - 3. give an assessment of the extent to which claims that the Enlightenment has failed are justified
  • outline what in so far as they are justified, options for responding to the claims of failure in thought and action

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
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

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 is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • It would be helpful to have some knowledge of Enlightenment thinkers and of Stephen Pinker's arguments in his Enlightenment Now (Allen Lane 2018)

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

Download full course information sheet

Has the Enlightenment Failed?

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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