How enlightened was the Enlightenment?

Alireza asked:

Could you explain the following sentences (especially the last one)?

I have problem understanding them:

The Enlightenment project, writes David Harvey in The Condition of Postmodernity, ‘took it as axiomatic that there was only one possible answer to any question. From this it followed that the world could be controlled and rationally ordered if we could only picture and represent it rightly. But this persumed a single mode of representation which, if we could uncover it… would provide the means to Enlightenment ends.

Answer by Martin Jenkins

The Enlightenment project took it as given, that that Reason, when applied correctly, would arrive at the correct conclusion. If this is so, then it follows that the world becomes knowable. If knowable, it -including human beings- are subject to control and manipulation. This would be Enlightenment: a condition free of error, illusion and irrationality.

The Enlightenment or project of Modernity, endeavoured to make existence a knowable, holistic, homogeneous totality. Knowledge is ‘a mirror of nature’, accurately representing or reflecting ‘how things are’. According to Post-Modernist criticism, there are many modernist narratives which claim to achieved this and which, clearly disagree with each other. (hence ‘if we could uncover it…’ in line 5). How paradoxical. Moreoever, the project of a total, Grand Narrative furnishes the road to repression and tyranny; for that which is different to the Identity of the Truth (Identitarianism), be it otherness, alterity or indeed, difference, is to be devalued.

Secondly, real-ity tends to be a process of flux and not a settled causa finalis. This is evident in the works of Nietzsche, Deleuze, Foucault. So an end to history is, according to such thinkers, highly undesirable as it is unlikely.

Thirdly, Post-Modernism has never been about an inane relativism, as many critics allege. It is, as Richard Rorty and Jean Francois Lyotard might maintain, the (temporary) ascendency of one language game amongst many. The very conditions of lived social life can reveal why this is the case.

Finally, as the early Nietzsche might maintain, the superfetation of Reason might not be the panacea for the human condition. Human emotions with their appreciation and gratification in Music, Art and the very mystery of life itself, cannot be understood nor captured by Reason, as the Enlightenment has hoped.

Hope this is of use Alireza.

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