Monday, 23 January 2023

"It is sometimes forgotten that New Zealand is a securely post-Enlightenment society..."


"It is sometimes forgotten that New Zealand, as a neo-European society, is a securely post-Enlightenment society... a very particular example of post-Enlightenment experimental practice…. The thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment … [argued] that men were governed by interest if not reason and that those interests could be orchestrated for beneficent purposes….
    “[W] e still live in a world first codified then, a world seen as 'a unified and self-sufficient Nature, governed by orderly laws, and including man within itself as part of Nature'….
    “Such a view underwrote 'the autonomy and sovereignty of knowledge'…. Thereafter the world was to be located and constituted through knowledge….
    “By the last quarter of the nineteenth century economic and moral progress would be widely considered fruits of knowledge. The myth of the Garden of Eden, where knowledge brings the Fall, had been stood on its head.”



Peter Cresswell said...

Olssen recounts that it was Francis Bacon, in the seventeenth century, who was the prime author of the reversal of the Edenic myth. Otago history academic John Stenhouse, in personal communication with Olssen, thus describes Bacon as “the patron saint of New Zealand intellectuals in the nineteenth century.”

MarkT said...

I think I've heard you say that some of the differences between Australia and NZ, in particular the latter's greater deference to authority in general can be attributed to this. NZ was founded post-Enlightenment, Australia around 70 years earlier was closer to the Enlightenment. Have I got that right?

Peter Cresswell said...

"Have I got that right?" Aye, that's the foundation of the idea -- that by the time of NZ's founding Enlightenment ideals had moved on from those that gave birth to the US, to a less individualistic and more wishy washy utilitarianism and communalism. Australia was perhaps about midway between. (The contrast between NZ the US is told in the title of David Hackett Fischer's survey of the two places: Fairness and Freedom.)