American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason
Caroline Winterer, Professor of History and, by courtesy, of Classics, Stanford University; Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities; Director, Stanford Humanities Center; Author, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason
Monday Night Philosophy investigates the accepted myth of the “American Enlightenment,” which suggests that the rejection of monarchy and establishment of a new republic in the U.S. in the 18th century was the realization of utopian philosophies born in the intellectual salons of Europe, which radiated outward to the New World. Winterer argues that this national mythology of a unitary, patriotic era of Enlightenment in America was created during the Cold War to shield against the threat of totalitarianism, and Americans in the 1700s were influenced by European models in far more complex ways than commonly thought. Winterer explores which of our ideas and ideals are truly rooted in the 18th century and which are inventions and mystifications of more recent times.