The Counter-Enlightenment was a term that some 20th-century commentators have used to describe multiple strains of thought that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Though the first known use of the term in English was in 1949 and there were several uses of it,[1] including one by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Counter-Enlightenment is usually associated with Isaiah Berlin, who is often credited for re-inventing it. The starting point of discussion on this concept in English started with Isaiah Berlin's 1973 Essay, The Counter-Enlightenment[2]. He published widely about the Enlightenment and its challengers and did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterized as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist, and organic,[3] which he associated most closely with German Romanticism.

Development and significant people

Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre was one of the more prominent altar-and-throne counter-revolutionaries who vehemently opposed Enlightenment ideas.

Early Stages

Despite criticism of the Enlightenment being a widely discussed topic in twentieth-century thought, the term 'Counter-Enlightenment' was underdeveloped. It was first mentioned briefly in English in William Barrett's 1949 article "Art, Aristocracy and Reason" in Partisan Review. He used the term again in his 1958 book on existentialism, Irrational Man; however, his comment on Enlightenment criticism was very limited.[2] In Germany, the expression "Gegen-Aufklärung" has a longer history. It was probably coined by Friedrich Nietzsche in "Nachgelassene Fragmente" in 1877.[4]

Lewis White Beck used this term in his Early German Philosophy (1969), a book about Counter-Enlightenment in Germany. Beck claims that there is a counter-movement arising in Germany in reaction to Frederick II's secular authoritarian state. On the other hand, Johann Georg Hamann and his fellow philosophers believe that a more organic conception of social and political life, a more vitalistic view of nature, and an appreciation for beauty and the spiritual life of man have been neglected by the eighteenth century.[2]

Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin established this term's place in the history of ideas. He used it to refer to a movement that arose primarily in late 18th- and early 19th-century Germany against the rationalism, universalism and empiricism, which are commonly associated with the Enlightenment. Berlin's essay "The Counter-Enlightenment" was first published in 1973, and later reprinted in a collection of his works, Against the Current, in 1981.[5] The term has been more widely used since.

Johann Georg Hamann (1730–1788)
Isaiah Berlin traces the Counter-Enlightenment back to J. G. Hamann (shown).

Berlin argues that, while there were opponents of the Enlightenment outside of Germany (e.g. Joseph de Maistre) and before the 1770s (e.g. Giambattista Vico), Counter-Enlightenment thought did not start until the Germans 'rebelled against the dead hand of France in the realms of culture, art and philosophy, and avenged themselves by launching the great counter-attack against the Enlightenment.' This German reaction to the imperialistic universalism of the French Enlightenment and Revolution, which had been forced on them first by the francophile Frederick II of Prussia, then by the armies of Revolutionary France and finally by Napoleon, was crucial to the shift of consciousness that occurred in Europe at this time, leading eventually to Romanticism. The consequence of this revolt against the Enlightenment was pluralism. The opponents to the Enlightenment played a more crucial role than its proponents, some of whom were monists, whose political, intellectual and ideological offspring have been terreur and totalitarianism.

Darrin McMahon

In his book Enemies of the Enlightenment (2001), historian Darrin McMahon extends the Counter-Enlightenment back to pre-Revolutionary France and down to the level of 'Grub Street,' thereby marking a major advance on Berlin's intellectual and Germanocentric view. McMahon focuses on the early opponents to the Enlightenment in France, unearthing a long-forgotten 'Grub Street' literature in the late 18th and early 19th centuries aimed at the philosophes. He delves into the obscure world of the 'low Counter-Enlightenment' that attacked the encyclopédistes and fought to prevent the dissemination of Enlightenment ideas in the second half of the century. Many people from earlier times attacked the Enlightenment for undermining religion and the social and political order. It later became a major theme of conservative criticism of the Enlightenment. After the French Revolution, it appeared to vindicate the warnings of the anti-philosophes in the decades prior to 1789.

Graeme Garrard

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (painted portrait)
Graeme Garrard traces the origin of the Counter-Enlightenment to Rousseau.

Cardiff University professor Graeme Garrard claims that historian William R. Everdell was the first to situate Rousseau as the "founder of the Counter-Enlightenment" in his 1971 dissertation and in his 1987 book, Christian Apologetics in France, 1730–1790: The Roots of Romantic Religion.[6] In his 1996 article, "the Origin of the Counter-Enlightenment: Rousseau and the New Religion of Sincerity", in the American Political Science Review (Vol. 90, No. 2), Arthur M. Melzer corroborates Everdell's view in placing the origin of the Counter-Enlightenment in the religious writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, further showing Rousseau as the man who fired the first shot in the war between the Enlightenment and its opponents.[7] Graeme Garrard follows Melzer in his "Rousseau's Counter-Enlightenment" (2003). This contradicts Berlin's depiction of Rousseau as a philosophe (albeit an erratic one) who shared the basic beliefs of his Enlightenment contemporaries. But similar to McMahon, Garrard traces the beginning of Counter-Enlightenment thought back to France and prior to the German Sturm und Drang movement of the 1770s. Garrard's book Counter-Enlightenments (2006) broadens the term even further, arguing against Berlin that there was no single 'movement' called 'The Counter-Enlightenment'. Rather, there have been many Counter-Enlightenments, from the middle of the 18th century to 20th-century Enlightenment among critical theorists, postmodernists and feminists. The Enlightenment has opponents on all points of its ideological compass, from the far left to the far right, and all points in between. Each of the Enlightenment's challengers depicted it as they saw it or wanted others to see it, resulting in a vast range of portraits, many of which are not only different but incompatible.

James Schmidt

The idea of Counter-Enlightenment has evolved in the following years. The historian James Schmidt questioned the idea of 'Enlightenment' and therefore of the existence of a movement opposing it. As the conception of 'Enlightenment' has become more complex and difficult to maintain, so has the idea of the 'Counter-Enlightenment'. Advances in Enlightenment scholarship in the last quarter-century have challenged the stereotypical view of the 18th century as an 'Age of Reason', leading Schmidt to speculate on whether the Enlightenment might not actually be a creation of its opponents, but the other way round. The fact that the term 'Enlightenment' was first used in 1894 in English to refer to a historical period supports the argument that it was a late construction projected back onto the 18th century.

The French Revolution

By the mid-1790s, the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution fueled a major reaction against the Enlightenment. Many leaders of the French Revolution and their supporters made Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as Marquis de Condorcet's ideas of reason, progress, anti-clericalism, and emancipation central themes to their movement. It led to an unavoidable backlash to the Enlightenment as there were people oppose to the revolution. Many counter-revolutionary writers, such as Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre and Augustin Barruel, asserted an intrinsic link between the Enlightenment and the Revolution.[2] They blamed the Enlightenment for undermining traditional beliefs that sustained the ancien regime. As the Revolution became increasingly bloody, the idea of 'Enlightenment' was discredited, too. Hence, the French Revolution and its aftermath have attributed to the development of Counter-Enlightenment thought.

Edmund Burke was among the first of the Revolution's opponents to relate the philosophes to the instability in France in the 1790s. His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) refers the Enlightenment as the principle cause of the French revolution. In Burke's opinion, the philosophes provided the revolutionary leaders with the theories on which their political schemes were based on.

Augustin Barruel's Counter-Enlightenment ideas were well developed before the revolution. He worked as an editor for the anti-philosophes literary journal, L'Année Littéraire. Barruel argues in his Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (1797) that the Revolution was the consequence of a conspiracy of philosophes and freemasons.

In Considerations on France (1797), Joseph de Maistre interprets the Revolution as divine punishment for the sins of the Enlightenment. According to him, "the revolutionary storm is an overwhelming force of nature unleashed on Europe by God that mocked human pretensions.[2]"


In the 1770s, the 'Sturm und Drang' movement started in Germany. It questioned some key assumptions and implications of the Aufklärung and the term 'Romanticism' was first coined. Many early Romantic writers such as Chateaubriand, Federich von Hardenberg (Novalis) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge inherited the Counter-Revolutionary antipathy towards the philosophes. All three directly blamed the philosophes in France and the Aufklärer in Germany for devaluing beauty, spirit and history in favour of a view of man as a soulless machine and a view of the universe as a meaningless, disenchanted void lacking richness and beauty. One particular concern to early Romantic writers was the allegedly anti-religious nature of the Enlightenment since the philosophes and Aufklarer were generally deists, opposed to revealed religion. Some historians, such as Hamann, nevertheless contend that this view of the Enlightenment as an age hostile to religion is common ground between these Romantic writers and many of their conservative Counter-Revolutionary predecessors. However, not many have commented on the Enlightenment, except for Chateaubriand, Novalis, and Coleridge, since the term itself did not exist at the time and most of their contemporaries ignored it.[2]

Goya - Caprichos (43) - Sleep of Reason
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, c. 1797, 21.5 cm × 15 cm. One of the most famous prints of the Caprichos.

The philosopher Jacques Barzun argues that Romanticism has its roots in the Enlightenment. It was not anti-rational, but rather balanced rationality against the competing claims of intuition and the sense of justice. This view is expressed in Goya's Sleep of Reason, in which the nightmarish owl offers the dozing social critic of Los Caprichos, a piece of drawing chalk. Even the rational critic is inspired by irrational dream-content under the gaze of the sharp-eyed lynx.[8] Marshall Brown makes much the same argument as Barzun in Romanticism and Enlightenment, questioning the stark opposition between these two periods.

By the middle of the 19th century, the memory of the French Revolution was fading and so was the influence of Romanticism. In this optimistic age of science and industry, there were few critics of the Enlightenment, and few explicit defenders. Friedrich Nietzsche is a notable and highly influential exception. After an initial defence of the Enlightenment in his so-called 'middle period' (late-1870s to early 1880s), Nietzsche turned vehemently against it.


In the intellectual discourse of the mid-20th century, two concepts emerged simultaneously in the West: enlightenment and totalitarianism. After World War II, the former re-emerged as a key organizing concept in social and political thought and the history of ideas. The Counter-Enlightenment literature blaming the 18th-century trust in reason for 20th-century totalitarianism also resurged along with it. The locus classicus of this view is Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), which traces the degeneration of the general concept of enlightenment from ancient Greece (epitomized by the cunning 'bourgeois' hero Odysseus) to 20th-century fascism. They mentioned little about Soviet communism, only referring to it as a regressive totalitarianism that "clung all too desperately to the heritage of bourgeois philosophy".[9]

The authors take 'enlightenment' as their target including its 18th-century form – which we now call 'The Enlightenment'. They claim it is epitomized by the Marquis de Sade. However, there were philosophers rejecting Adorno and Horkheimer’s claim that Sade's moral skepticism is actually coherent, or that it reflects Enlightenment thought.[10]

Many postmodern writers and feminists (e.g. Jane Flax) have made similar arguments. They regard the Enlightenment conception of reason as totalitarian, and as not having been enlightened enough since. For Adorno and Horkheimer, though it banishes myth it falls back into a further myth, that of individualism and formal (or mythic) equality under instrumental reason.

Michel Foucault, for example, argued that attitudes towards the "insane" during the late-18th and early 19th centuries show that supposedly enlightened notions of humane treatment were not universally adhered to, but instead, the Age of Reason had to construct an image of "Unreason" against which to take an opposing stand. Berlin himself, although no postmodernist, argues that the Enlightenment's legacy in the 20th century has been monism (which he claims favours political authoritarianism), whereas the legacy of the Counter-Enlightenment has been pluralism (associates with liberalism). These are two of the 'strange reversals' of modern intellectual history.

Perversion of reason

What seems to unite all of the Enlightenment's disparate critics from 18th-century religious opponents, counter-revolutionaries, to Romantics, to 20th-century conservatives, feminists, critical theorists and environmentalists is a rejection of what they consider to be the Enlightenment's perversion of reason: the distorted conceptions of reason associate with the Enlightenment in favour of a more restricted view of the nature, scope and limits of human rationality. Debates have occurred over the scope, meaning and application of reason, not over whether it is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, essential or inessential per se. Some charge that the Enlightenment inflated the power and scope of reason, while others claim that it narrowed it.

See also


  1. ^ Listed by Henry Hardy in the second edition of Isaiah Berlin, Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas (Princeton University Press, 2013), p. xxv, note 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f 1965-, Garrard, Graeme, (2006). Counter-enlightenments : from the eighteenth century to the present. Abingdon [England]: Routledge. ISBN 0203645669. OCLC 62895765.
  3. ^ Aspects noted by Darrin M. McMahon, "The Counter-Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France" Past and Present No. 159 (May 1998:77–112) p. 79 note 7.
  4. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich (1877). Werke: Kristische Gesamtausgabe. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 478.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Garrard, Graeme (2003), Rousseau's Counter-Enlightenment: A Republican Critique of the Philosophes, State University of New York Press, To my knowledge, the first explicit identification of Rousseau as "founder of the "Counter-Enlightenment" appears in William Everdell's study of Christian apologetics in eighteenth-century France.
  7. ^ Melzer, Arthur M. (1996). "The Origin of the Counter-Enlightenment: Rousseau and the New Religion of Sincerity". The American Political Science Review. 90 (2): 344–360. doi:10.2307/2082889. JSTOR 2082889.
  8. ^ Linda Simon, The Sleep of Reason
  9. ^ Adorno & Horkeimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1947, pp. 32–33
  10. ^ Geoffrey Roche, "Much Sense the Starkest Madness: de Sade’s Moral Scepticism." Angelaki Volume 15, Issue 1 April 2010, pages 45 – 59. Retrieved 12 December 2010. [1].
  11. ^ It is difficult to label Carlyle's thought, but his famous conception on the "Hero Worship" and traditionalism, as well as his, somehow, critical analysis on the French Revolution (in one of his classic books), links him close to the Counter-Enlightenment


  • Barzun, Jacques. 1961. Classic, Romantic, and Modern. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226038520.
  • Berlin, Isaiah, "The Counter-Enlightenment" in The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays, ISBN 0-374-52717-2.
  • Berlin, Isaiah, Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder. (Henry Hardy, editor). Princeton University Press, 2003
  • Everdell, William R. Christian Apologetics in France, 1730–1790: The Roots of Romantic Religion. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987.
  • Garrard, Graeme, Rousseau's Counter-Enlightenment: A Republican Critique of the Philosophes (2003) ISBN 0-7914-5604-8
  • Garrard, Graeme, Counter-Enlightenments: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2006) ISBN 0-415-18725-7
  • Garrard, Graeme, "Isaiah Berlin's Counter-Enlightenment" in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, ed. Joseph Mali and Robert Wokler (2003), ISBN 0-87169-935-4
  • Garrard, Graeme, "The War Against the Enlightenment", European Journal of Political Theory, 10 (2011): 277–86.
  • Humbertclaude, Éric, Récréations de Hultazob. Paris: L'Harmattan 2010, ISBN 978-2-296-12546-9 (sur Melech August Hultazob, médecin-charlatan des Lumières Allemandes assassiné en 1743)
  • Israel, Jonathan, Enlightenment Contested, Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-19-954152-2.
  • Jung, Theo, "Multiple Counter-Enlightenments: The Genealogy of a Polemics from the Eighteenth Century to the Present", in: Martin L. Davies (ed.), Thinking about the Enlightenment: Modernity and Its Ramifications, Milton Park / New York 2016, 209-226 (PDF).
  • Masseau, Didier, Les ennemis des philosophes:. l’antiphilosophie au temps des Lumières, Paris: Albin Michel, 2000.
  • McMahon, Darrin M., Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity details the reaction to Voltaire and the Enlightenment in European intellectual history from 1750 to 1830.
  • Norton, Robert E. "The Myth of the Counter-Enlightenment," Journal of the History of Ideas, 68 (2007): 635–58.
  • Schmidt, James, What Enlightenment Project?, Political Theory, 28/6 (2000), pp. 734–57.
  • Schmidt, James, Inventing the Enlightenment: Anti-Jacobins, British Hegelians and the Oxford English Dictionary, Journal of the History of Ideas, 64/3 (2003), pp. 421–43.
  • Wolin, Richard, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton University Press) 2004, sets out to trace "the uncanny affinities between the Counter-Enlightenment and postmodernism."

External links

  • Isaiah Berlin,"The Counter-Enlightenment", in Dictionary of the History of Ideas (1973)
  • permanent dead link] Darrin M. McMahon, "The counter-Enlightenment and the low-life of literature in pre-Revolutionary France," from Past & Present, May 1998
A Discourse on the Love of Our Country

A Discourse on the Love of Our Country is a speech and pamphlet delivered by Richard Price in England in 1789, in support of the French Revolution, equating it with the Glorious Revolution a century earlier in England. This set off the Revolution Controversy, an exchange of arguments via pamphlet between those supporting or opposing the idea of the French Revolution.

Augustin Barruel

Augustin Barruel (October 2, 1741 – October 5, 1820) was a French publicist and Jesuit priest. He is now mostly known for setting forth the conspiracy theory involving the Bavarian Illuminati and the Jacobins in his book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (original title Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire du Jacobinisme) published in 1797. In short, Barruel wrote that the French Revolution was planned and executed by the secret societies.

Charles Palissot de Montenoy

Charles Palissot de Montenoy (3 January 1730 – 15 June 1814) was an 18th-century French playwright, admirer and disciple of Voltaire and Antoine de Rivarol. Paradoxically, he was often denounced as a Counter-Enlightenment opponent to the parti philosophique, especially for his critic of Diderot and the Encyclopédistes. He is the author of the comedy, Les Philosophes, which was a huge success and caused a scandal in 1760.

Darrin McMahon

Darrin M. McMahon is a historian, author, public speaker, and currently a professor of History at Dartmouth College.

Trained as a historian of France, his first book Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity dealt with opposition within France to the Enlightenment legacy in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is also the author of Happiness: A History (Atlantic Monthly Books, 2006), and Divine Fury: A History of Genius (Basic Books, 2013).

Enlightenment Now

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress is a 2018 book written by Canadian-American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. It argues that the Enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism have brought progress; shows our progress with data that health, prosperity, safety, peace, and happiness have tended to rise worldwide; and explains the cognitive science of why this progress should be appreciated. It is a follow-up to Pinker's 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.


Integralism or Integrism (French: Intégrisme) as a political term designates theoretical concepts and practical policies that advocate a fully integrated social and political order, based on converging patrimonial (inherited) political, cultural, religious and national traditions of a particular state, or some other political entity. In the 20th century political history, integralism was often related to traditionalist conservatism and similar political movements on the right wing of a political spectrum. However, contemporary discussions of integralism begin in 2014, with critiques of capitalism and liberalism.As a traditionalist political movement, integralism emerged during the 19th and early 20th century polemics within the Catholic Church, especially in France, The term was used as an epithet to describe those who opposed the "modernists", who had sought to create a synthesis between Christian theology and the liberal philosophy of secular modernity. Proponents of Catholic political integralism taught that all social and political action ought to be based on the Catholic Faith. They rejected the separation of church and state, arguing that Catholicism should be the proclaimed religion of the state.

Isaiah Berlin

Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was a Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. Although averse to writing, his improvised lectures and talks were recorded and transcribed, with his spoken word being converted by his secretaries into his published essays and books.

Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909, he moved to Petrograd, Russia, at the age of six, where he witnessed the revolutions of 1917. In 1921 his family moved to the UK, and he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1932, at the age of 23, Berlin was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He translated works by Ivan Turgenev from Russian into English and, during the war, worked for the British Diplomatic Service. From 1957 to 1967 he was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1963 to 1964. In 1966, he played a role in founding Wolfson College, Oxford, and became its first President. Berlin was appointed a CBE in 1946, knighted in 1957, and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the British Academy from 1974 to 1978. He also received the 1979 Jerusalem Prize for his writings on individual freedom, and on November 25th, 1994, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Toronto, for which occasion he prepared a "short credo" (as he called it in a letter to a friend) known as "A Message to the 21st Century", to be read on his behalf at the ceremony.

An annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture is held at the Hampstead Synagogue, at Wolfson College, Oxford, at the British Academy, and in Riga. Berlin's work on liberal theory and on value pluralism, as well as his opposition to Marxism and communism, has had a lasting influence. In its obituary of the scholar, The Independent stated that:

Isaiah Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world's greatest talker, the century's most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time ... there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential

Jean-Jacques Lefranc, Marquis de Pompignan

Jean-Jacques Lefranc (also Le Franc), Marquis de Pompignan (10 August 1709 – 1 November 1784) was a French man of letters and erudition, who published a considerable output of theatrical work, poems, literary criticism, and polemics; treatises on archeology, nature, travel and many other subjects; and a wide selection of highly regarded translations of the classics and other works from several European languages including English.

His life and career, as well as his literary and other works are noteworthy today because of their location at the very center of the French Enlightenment; and although some of the positions he took are also considered to have been formative contributions to the counter-Enlightenment tendencies that were being articulated in parallel, he remains, in many respects, the typical Enlightenment man.

The prolific volumes of literary works are now of academic interest only, mainly to flesh out aspects of the culture of the time, which embraced a period in which tensions that were to explode in the French Revolution five years after his death were still held in check. Lefranc is remembered today, if he is at all, as a consequence of the maiden speech he gave at the Académie française in 1760, which led to him becoming forever known and defined as "the enemy of Voltaire".

His library of some 25,000 volumes was sold after his death by his son, and became founding collections for no less than three learned institution in Toulouse. He built a neo-classical chateau at Pompignan, and over a period of thirty-five years created one of the earliest and most extensive parcs à fabriques (or French landscape garden).

The chateau stands in good order today, and although the park and its follies have been neglected, the extensive hydrological system still functions. In May 2011 the decision was taken to route the planned Bordeaux-Toulouse TGV and high-speed freight rail lines through the center of the Lefranc's landscape park.

Johann Georg Hamann

Johann Georg Hamann (; German: [ˈhaːman]; 27 August 1730 – 21 June 1788) was a German philosopher, whose work was used by his student J. G. Herder as a main support of the Sturm und Drang movement, and associated by historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin with the Counter-Enlightenment. However, recent scholarship, such as that by theologian Oswald Bayer, describes Hamann as a "radical Enlightener" who vigorously opposed dogmatic rationalism in matters of philosophy and faith. Bayer views him as less the proto-Romantic that Herder presented, and more a premodern-postmodern thinker who brought the consequences of Lutheran theology to bear upon the burgeoning Enlightenment and especially in reaction to Kant. Goethe and Kierkegaard were among those who considered him to be the finest mind of his time.

Joseph de Maistre

Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre (French: [də mɛstʁ]; 1 April 1753 – 26 February 1821) was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat, who advocated social hierarchy and monarchy in the period immediately following the French Revolution. Despite his close personal and intellectual ties with France, Maistre was throughout his life a subject of the King of Piedmont-Sardinia, whom he served as member of the Savoy Senate (1787–1792), ambassador to Russia (1803–1817), and minister of state to the court in Turin (1817–1821).A key figure of the "Counter-Enlightenment", Maistre regarded monarchy as both a divinely sanctioned institution and as the only stable form of government. He called for the restoration of the House of Bourbon to the throne of France and for the ultimate authority of the Pope in temporal matters. Maistre argued that the rationalist rejection of Christianity was directly responsible for the disorder and bloodshed which followed the French Revolution of 1789.

Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism

Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (French: Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du Jacobinisme) is a book by Abbé Augustin Barruel, a French Jesuit priest. It was written and published in French in 1797-98, and translated into English in 1799.

In the book, Barruel claims that the French Revolution was the result of a deliberate conspiracy or plot to overthrow the throne, altar and aristocratic society in Europe. The plot was allegedly hatched by a coalition of philosophes, Freemasons. The conspirators created a system that was inherited by the Jacobins who operated it to its greatest potential. The Memoirs purports to expose the Revolution as the culmination of a long history of subversion. Barruel was not the first to make these charges but he was the first to present them in a fully developed historical context and his evidence was on a quite unprecedented scale. Barruel wrote each of the first three volumes of the book as separate discussions of those who contributed to the conspiracy. The fourth volume is an attempt to unite them all in a description of the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism is representative of the criticism of the Enlightenment that spread throughout Europe during the Revolutionary period.

Barruel’s Memoirs is considered one of the founding documents of the right-wing interpretation of the French Revolution. It became popular immediately after it was published and was read and commented on by most of the important literary and political journals of the day. The four volumes of the text were published in a number of languages and created a debate about the role of the philosophes, their ideas, and the Enlightenment in the French Revolution. They remained in print well into the 20th century and contributed to the historical interpretation of the late 18th century in France. The success of Barruel's work is testimony to the anti-philosophical discourse that spread in the aftermath of the revolution. Barruel left behind a construction of the Enlightenment that was destined to influence subsequent interpretations. He wound accusations tightly around his foes and tied them into positions from which they could not escape. The text created a link between the Enlightenment and the Revolution and this connection remains a topic of historical debate.

Reflections on the Revolution in France

Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political pamphlet written by the Irish statesman Edmund Burke and published in November 1790. One of the best-known intellectual attacks against the French Revolution, Reflections is a defining tract of modern conservatism as well as an important contribution to international theory. Above all else, it has been one of the defining efforts of Edmund Burke's transformation of "traditionalism into a self-conscious and fully conceived political philosophy of conservatism".The pamphlet has not been easy to classify. Before seeing this work as a pamphlet, Burke wrote in the mode of a letter, invoking expectations of openness and selectivity that added a layer of meaning. Academics have had trouble identifying whether Burke, or his tract, can best be understood as "a realist or an idealist, Rationalist or a Revolutionist". Thanks to its thoroughness, rhetorical skill and literary power, it has become one of the most widely known of Burke's writings and a classic text in political theory. In the 20th century, it greatly influenced conservative and classical liberal intellectuals, who recast Burke's Whiggish arguments as a critique of communist and revolutionary-socialist programmes.


Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature. It elevated folk art and ancient custom to something noble, but also spontaneity as a desirable characteristic (as in the musical impromptu). In contrast to the Rationalism and Classicism of the Enlightenment, Romanticism revived medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived as authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, early urban sprawl, and industrialism.

Although the movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which preferred intuition and emotion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the events and ideologies of the French Revolution were also proximate factors. Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of "heroic" individualists and artists, whose examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society. It also promoted the individual imagination as a critical authority allowed of freedom from classical notions of form in art. There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a Zeitgeist, in the representation of its ideas. In the second half of the 19th century, Realism was offered as a polar opposite to Romanticism. The decline of Romanticism during this time was associated with multiple processes, including social and political changes and the spread of nationalism.

Sturm und Drang

Sturm und Drang (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtʊɐ̯m ʊnt ˈdʁaŋ], literally "storm and drive", though usually translated as "storm and stress") was a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music that occurred between the late 1760s and early 1780s. Within the movement, individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The period is named for Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's play of the same name, which was first performed by Abel Seyler's famed theatrical company in 1777.

The philosopher Johann Georg Hamann is considered to be the ideologue of Sturm und Drang; other significant figures were Johann Anton Leisewitz, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, H. L. Wagner, and Friedrich Maximilian Klinger. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller were notable proponents of the movement early in their life, although they ended their period of association with it by initiating what would become Weimar Classicism.

Thomas Wizenmann

Thomas Wizenmann (1759 – 1787) was a German philosopher of the Enlightenment, a critic of Kant and Mendelssohn during the Pantheism controversy. He wrote Die Resultate der Jacobischer und Mendelsohnischen Philosophie kritisch erläutert von einem Freywilligen. Wizenmann was a follower of F. H. Jacobi, a critic of Enlightenment Rationalism.

Three Critics of the Enlightenment

Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder is a collection of essays in the history of philosophy by 20th century philosopher and historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin. Edited by Henry Hardy and released posthumously in 2000, the collection comprises the previously published works Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (1976) – an essay on Counter-Enlightenment thinkers Giambattista Vico and Johann Gottfried Herder – and The Magus of the North: J. G. Hamann and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism (1993), concerning irrationalist Johann Georg Hamann.

Élie Catherine Fréron

Élie Catherine Fréron (20 January 1718 – 10 March 1776) was a French literary critic and controversialist whose career focused on countering the influence of the philosophes of the French Enlightenment, partly thorough his vehicle, the Année littéraire. Thus Fréron, in recruiting young writers to counter the literary establishment became central to the movement now called the Counter-Enlightenment.

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