Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote of the day

'Hume and Kant both wrote about reason. We think of the Enlightenment as privileging reason, but for Hume and Kant their question was: what are the limits of reason? Hume was sceptical about the capacity of reason to solve our problems in metaphysics and elsewhere. And so indeed was Kant. For me, this is the reason why both Hume and Kant are central Enlightenment figures, and of course Kant is the author of the great essay “What is Enlightenment?” People ask, if they are Enlightenment thinkers, why are they looking for the limits of reason? The answer is that before the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the Enlightenment, the source of knowledge was authority – the authority of the deity, the Bible, the Church. If we are going to exercise authority over the acquisition of knowledge, we have to understand our instrument. That is why we need a critique of our mental powers. Look also at Locke, a major figure in stimulating the Enlightenment. His question was, What can we know? How much can we know? This is why one distinctive feature of the Enlightenment is the examination of the nature and extent of reason.' - AC Grayling, interview with Tzvetan Todorov

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