`Aufklärung', freemasonry, the public sphere and the question of Enlightenment
de Burgh, H.
`Aufklärung', freemasonry, the public sphere and the question of Enlightenment.
Journal of European Studies, 38 (1), 5-25.
That the Enlightenment was a movement reaching across at least three European countries (France, Germany and Britain) in the eighteenth century, with a similar platform in all three (social improvement on the basis of unassisted reason), is the current orthodoxy. Yet this view can only be accepted with qualifications. It is the intention of this essay to focus attention on these qualifications. A first objection lies with the fact that no platform of Enlightenment was articulated in any country in the eighteenth century apart from Germany. In the debate about Enlightenment initiated in the Berlinische Monatsschrift in 1783, Kant's insistence that Aufklärung must stay within political limits is considered characteristic not only of the German discussion, but indeed of all broadly Enlightenment thought from the beginning. In considering Koselleck's argument about the Enlightenment, which analysed this same conservatism, a second objection is apparent: the impulse to stay within the confines of the absolutist state suggests that eighteenth-century Enlightenment, politically speaking, was decidedly other than that which has subsequently been found within it.