The Enlightenment and The Rights of Man

John Issitt

Wednesday, March 5 2014 at 7:00PM

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67 Etruria Old Road,
ST1 5PE.

John Issitt

What's the talk about?

 ‘Reason given the status of omnipotence becomes a monster’ said Mahatma Gandhi with the spectre of the second world war and the Holocaust in mind. 

Directly and indirectly my story negotiates the limits and fortunes of Reason. It follows the best and most reasonable efforts of a group who act to a large extent in the name of, or at least with, the standard of Enlightenment Reason. It, in its own small way follows the kindling light of a certain political perspective – most notably in the form of Paine’s Rights of Man - and its snuffing out by more immediate, more powerful drivers which were themselves reasons albeit of a different order. 

There are important lessons to be learnt by observing the fortunes of Reason and the initial 5-year period of the French Revolution is particularly fascinating and rich. My tale in the Agents of Reason accounts the actions of a man – Jeremiah Joyce (1763-1816) who was one of a small group of radicals in 1790s London who pursued the Enlightenment aspirations of fair play and the extension of the franchise, on a claim of reason. It is not a tale of the famous and their doings, it is a tale of a working class man caught up in the action trying to do his best. It is a tale based as far as possible on the minimal historical record – minimal because it was quite simply too dangerous to keep evidence that could be used in court.

John Issitt  is a writer and Provost of Langwith College University of York UK. He lectures in philosophy of learning. He has taught for the Open University for 23 years and is a National Teaching Fellow.

His writing is concerned with the eighteenth century and his latest book is focused on the ideas and legacies of Tom Paine and Edmund Burke. It attempts to present complex ideas and historical events in a way that is human, accessible and interesting.

£3 per head will get you a ticket in our drinks raffle, two lucky attendees will win a FREE pint on the night.