The Enlightenment is an intellectual and philosophical high point of European historical development. It created powerful ideas and ideals - such as freedom, moral law, empowered, autonomous citizenship, fraternity and equality, representative democracy and tolerance, along with the ideas of progress and rational governmentality of society. At the same time, however, it also legitimized the Eurocentric domination of the world, serving as universal justification for all imperial conquests, for the destruction of local traditions, for ruthless technologization and exploitation of various non-European cultures and the forceful export of “civilization,” and “modernity”.
Today, the general consequences of the Enlightenment seem to be ambiguous: spread of literacy, scientific and economic progress, rule of law, emancipation movements along with centuries of colonial rule, violent political changes, disastrous world and local wars. The Enlightenment ideas have inspired several revolutions – political, philosophical and technological. They are the normative basis of democracy, yet of free market, technology and capitalism, too; they legitimize colonization, yet also anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance movements. Philosophers, writers and public figures of the Enlightenment, along with agents of mass education and literacy, spread across the world the standards of human dignity, sovereignty and emancipation, which are still enshrined in the legal and moral order of the “global present”. However, their dark doubles - eurocentrism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia, patriarchalism - are rooted in the very same intellectual, moral and political project and continue to shape our present as well.
All this shows that the Enlightenment is still very much a topical, controversial issue that has important political and intellectual implications; it raises questions and doubts - is Modernity a finished or still an unfinished project? In this strict sense, thinking about the Enlightenment and Modernity means not only thinking about our own origin; it means justifying our present and designing our future.
This conference aims not only to rethink those already known and inevitable contradictions, but also to de-Europeanize the history of the Enlightenment and its contemporary condition: to offer new perspectives from the “peripheries” which will, as we hope, re-examine the ambivalent legacy of the Enlightenment in a new heuristic way.