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p. 824. Enlightening the publiclocked

  • John Robertson

Abstract

‘Enlightening the public’ outlines what historians have revealed of the context in which Enlightenment ideas were formed and received and argues that what distinguished the Enlightenment was the agency of philosophers and men of letters in relation to their ‘public’. What they sought was a new role for themselves as formers of ‘public opinion’, understood as an instrument by which they could guide, but also effectively limit, what governments could hope to achieve. It concludes by returning to the classic question of the relation between Enlightenment and revolution, to argue that we should see the Enlightenment as overtaken by the Revolution, and brought to an end by the revolutionary eruption of direct political action.

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