What is the spirit of the enlightenment and what does it stand for?

In a back-and-forth between past and present constant, in his book The Spirit of Enlightenment Tzvetan Todorov clears the outline of this thought, without taking his eyes of our time.

"After the death of God, after the collapse of utopia, which are the spiritual and moral support we want to build our lives together on? If we want to act as responsible beings, we need a conceptual framework that would not be based only on our words, which is easy, but on our actions as well. As I embarked on a quest for that framework I came to one current of thought and sensibility - the humanistic version of the Enlightenment. Over three-quarters of a century, namely in the years before the 1789, there was a great upheaval that is, more than any other, responsible for our current identity. For the first time in history, human beings have decided to take their fate into their own hands and to mark as the ultimate goal of their activities the benefit of mankind. The movement started from the whole Europe, not just from one country, and found its expression in philosophy and politics, in sciences and the arts, in the novel and autobiography.

The Enlightenment belongs to the past, considering that there was a century of the Enlightenment; however, for it can not be said that is "past" because it does not designate a historically specific period of teaching, but access to a specific view of the world. Therefore, we still mention it, depending on the case and the commitment of the author, accusing it of being a source of our old and existing evils of colonialism, genocide, the rule of selfishness; or we need it to come to the aid of our current and future shortcomings. Therefore, we suggest that the "the light of the Enlightenment be relit", or that its light shines on regions and cultures that have not yet met it."

What was the Enlightenment project? What basic ideas are at its source? Autonomy, humanity, universality - what is meant by that? Beyond the rejection or invocation, what exactly is the impact of the Enlightenment on the course of history? Does it give us the tools to solve today's political problems? In the spirit of the New World Disorder, Tzvetan Todorov wrote a book of reflection, synthetic as well as brilliant, that is midway between political philosophy and news.

At a time when the debates about ideas rarely appear in the mainstream media, Tzetan Todorov outlines the spirit of Enlightenment that has largely determined our thinking and our current Western societies. The book recalls the outline of some schools of thought: to choose at the expense of what is imposed on us by an outside authority; the emancipation and the autonomy. Desecration of dogmas and institutions. Knowledge of the world abstracted from two sources: reason and experience. One must make sense of his earthly existence, and the state must not turn to the Divine service, but to the well-being of all the citizens. The separation of powers, the defense of the individual, equality of rights, the plurality of ideas, discussion, human rights, these are ideas that Todorov deals with.

  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-02-5
  • Year of the edition: 2015
  • Number of pages: 148
  • Cover: paperback
  • Original title: L`Esprit des lumières
  • Original language: French
  • Translation: Gordana V. Popović
  • Dimensions: 127x200 mm

It is my definite opinion that this book delivers the most difficult arguments for and against the Enlightenment presents in a way that is credible, smooth and olso by using different levels of discourse, from philosophical and historical perstective to sociological-political science and, most importantly, consistently, and at the same time critically openly in favor of the epoch of the Enlightenment which is, hopefully, still ongoing.
Prof. Vjeran Katunarić, Ph. D.

The book by Tzvetan Todorov, The Spirit of Enlightenment, is an original scientific work that deals with one of the most important topics of the modernity. The Enlightenment is a constituent factor of contemporary culture and referential base for theoretical and historical reflection on contemporary societies.
Prof. Rade Kalan, Ph. D.