• What Was the Enlightenment?
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    What Was the Enlightenment?

    Modern science, medicine, political freedom, the market economy—all of them, we’re told, are the result of a sort of miracle that took place 250 years ago. That miracle is called the Enlightenment, a moment in history when philosophers suddenly overthrew religious dogma and tradition and replaced it with human reason. Harvard professor Steven Pinker puts it this way: “Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment.” There’s just one problem with this claim. It isn’t really true. Consider the U.S. Constitution, which is frequently said to be a product of Enlightenment thought. But you only need to read about English common law—which Alexander Hamilton and James Madison certainly…