Enlightenment Against Empire

ISBN-10: 0691115176

ISBN-13: 9780691115177

Edition: 2003

Authors: Sankar Muthu

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In the late eighteenth century, an array of European political thinkers attacked the very foundations of imperialism, arguing passionately that empire-building was not only unworkable, costly, and dangerous, but manifestly unjust.Enlightenment against Empireis the first book devoted to the anti-imperialist political philosophies of an age often regarded as affirming imperial ambitions. Sankar Muthu argues that thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder developed an understanding of humans as inherently cultural agents and therefore necessarily diverse. These thinkers rejected the conception of a culture-free "natural man." They held that moral judgments of superiority or inferiority could be made neither about entire peoples nor about many distinctive cultural institutions and practices. Muthu shows how such arguments enabled the era's anti-imperialists to defend the freedom of non-European peoples to order their own societies. In contrast to those who praise "the Enlightenment" as the triumph of a universal morality and critics who view it as an imperializing ideology that denigrated cultural pluralism, Muthu argues instead that eighteenth-century political thought included multiple Enlightenments. He reveals a distinctive and underappreciated strand of Enlightenment thinking that interweaves commitments to universal moral principles and incommensurable ways of life, and that links the concept of a shared human nature with the idea that humans are fundamentally diverse. Such an intellectual temperament, Muthu contends, can broaden our own perspectives about international justice and the relationship between human unity and diversity.
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Book details

List price: $38.95
Copyright year: 2003
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 8/31/2003
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 368
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.144
Language: English

Introduction: Enlightenment Political Thought and the Age of Empire
Enlightenment Anti-imperialism as a Historical Anomaly
Toward a Subversion of Noble Savagery: From Natural Humans to Cultural Humans
Noble Savagery in Montaigne's "Of Cannibals"
Lahontan's Dialogue with a Huron
New World Peoples in Rousseau's Conjectural History
Diderot and Bougainville's Voyage
Diderot's Tahiti: Appropriating and Subverting Noble Savage Theory
The New World as a Device of Social Criticism: The Overlapping and Rival Approaches of Diderot and Rousseau
The Dehumanization of Natural Humanity
Diderot and the Evils of Empire: The Histoire de deux Indes
The General Will of Humanity, the Partial Incommensurability of Moeurs, and the Ethics of Crossing Borders
On the Cruelties Unleashed by Empire in the Non-European World
Trading Companies and Conquest: On Commerce and Imperial Rule
The Disastrous Effects of Empire upon Europeans
Europe: Not a Civilization Fit for Export
Humanity and Culture in Kant's Politics
Humanity as Cultural Agency
Cultural Freedom and Embedded Reason
From Humanity to Personality
Kant's Social Criticism: The Vulnerability and Commodification of Cultural Agency
Humanity as Dignity
Noumenon as the Curtailment of Metaphysics
Aesthetic Humanity: The Opportunities and Injustices of 'Civilized' Sociability
Humanity as Cultural Agency in Political Context: Combating State Paternalism
Humanity as Cultural Agency in a Philosophy of History: Kant's Narrative of Hope
Kant's Anti-imperialism: Cultural Agency and Cosmopolitan Right
Self-Cultivation, Pluralism, and Cultural Freedom
Anthropological Diversity: From Race to Collective Freedom
Anti-imperialism and Cosmopolitan Right
An Unusual Social Contract Doctrine
Pluralism, Humanity, and Empire in Herder's Political Thought
Generalizations, Contingency, and Historical Judgement
The Flux of History
On the Horizons of Knowledge and Universal Standards
Early Thoughts on National Communities
'Humanity' as Philosophical Anthropology
Conceptualizing Human Diversity: Sedentary versus Nomadic Societies
Beyond Empire and toward International Justice: 'Humanity' as a Moral Ideal
Conclusion: The Philosophical Sources and Legacies of Enlightenment Anti-imperialism
Pluralizing 'the' Enlightenment
Universal Dignity, Cultural Agency, and Moral Incommensurability
Works Cited
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