Saturday, November 11, 2006

Philosophy and the French Revolution

Last night, a student asked me, why have I never heard about an alternative version of the French Revolution in my history textbooks?

Response, there are many features of the French Revolution which are not very salubrious. In fact, there are many aspects of the Revolution that the Revolutionaries themselves thought of as united to their movement. They saw the Revolution as a culmination of a certain philosophical movement which had been impregnating itself into culture and institutions over time. Many of those who write history, philosophy, political philosophy, and even theology books are committed to the philosophical ideas that are part of the revolution, human rights & equality.

And so, they have a natural capacity to overlook or omit what might be distasteful things that go along with their ideology. All the more reason for us to look into the thought of those who reflected on the Revolution. Some of them, like Burke, DeTocqueville, and Adams, considered themselves part of the Englightenment tradition. And yet, they were horrified at the Revolution. Others, like Mary Wollstonecraft and Kant, were enamoured with the Enlightenment and with the way its ideas were being carried out by the Revolutionaries. Finally, Pius VI is a representative who many would categorize as outside the Enlightenment tradition. And yet, due to his "connections" he is a person who in the end had something to say about the Revolution and its effects.


Post a Comment

<< Home