Los Angeles Valley College Enlightenment Truth and Equality Discussion


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After watching the video about Toussaint L’Ouverture and reading the Constitution of Saint Domingue (Later Haiti) which was considered a “pure distillation of L’Ouverture’s thought,” make 2 posts.

You should make your first post by Wed., Sept. 14 at 11:59 p.m. In it, pick a “golden line” from the Constitution  that shows how L’Ouverture’s concerns were distinct or different from  those of other writers we have read so far.  Post the line in quotation  marks and then put it in your own words.  Then explain why you picked  it.

You should make your second post by Friday, Sept. 16 at 11:59 p.m.  In it, pick  a “golden line” from one of your classmates’ posts that stands out to  you in some way – either because you agree with it, disagree with it, or  have some other thought about it.  You might even consider relating  your classmates’ posts to something in the present day.  In any case,  explain why you picked this “golden line” from your classmate’s post.


Enlightenment Figures Discuss the Future of the Enlightenment and its Struggles

For your first essay for this class, you are going to imagine  a conversation between you and three other writers/thinkers we’ve  encountered so far this semester.

The Situation:  You are a TV talk show  host!  Imagine that three of the writers/artists/thinkers we’ve  discussed in Module 1 have been transported into the 21st century  and got booked onto your show as a panel discussion to talk about the  legacy of the Enlightenment in the 21st century.  Today your program is  hosting a panel of at least three of  the writers or thinkers or artists we’ve discussed in Unit 1 of  Humanities 105 (this is the unit that covers weeks 1-3 of our course).   Your panel must include either Mary Wollstonecraft or Olympe de Gouges, and two other authors/thinkers  of your choice (Descartes, Kant, Diderot, L’Ouverture, and/or any of  the artists you’ve learned about).  You can also include additional  participants if you wish.  Your purpose in the show  script is to have these three thinkers share their thoughts on 1) how  they see the legacy of the Enlightenment and its successes and failures  in the 21st century and 2) how they feel their specifc projects and  ideas are still at work today.  In doing this you  will be able to show your instructor that you’re beginning to see how  different figures we’ve discussed from the 18th century  still play a role in our current debates–especially when it comes to  thinking about struggles for truth, independence, and equality!  You  should also, as moderator, connect the conversation to your own  personal experience in the 21st century at at least three points in the  conversation.  Here’s a way you might do that: “De  Gouges points out women are not treated as equals to men, and I see  that in my own house.  As a female, I’m expected to help out with my  younger siblings, which really cuts into my studying time, but my older  brother isn’t expected to do any of that!”

What does the “legacy of the Enlightenment” mean?  It’s  hard for us to understand because the idea of the individual search for  truth and knowledge and for a society built on truth and knowledge and  ideas like fairness and liberty are so second nature to us, but those  ideas were born during the Enlightenment.  So when you think about the  legacy of the Enlightenment, you might think about “How is our society  doing with supporting the search for truth, knowledge and equality?”   “Have we had any successes?”  “Have we had any setbacks?”  If dropped  into our current world, what would be exciting for these Enlightenment  thinkers?  What would be worrisome?  What would Diderot think of  Wikipedia? Would he think it was all good or would he see some potential  problems?  What might de Gouges think about the fact that the Equal  Rights Amendment never got adopted? What might L’Ouverture have to say  about George Floyd?

What do you mean about these thinkers’ “specific projects?”   Diderot’s specific project was the first encyclopedia.  How might he  feel about the new ways of sharing knowledge now?  Kant believed in the  public and private uses of reason.  How would those 2 uses be  facilitated or hindered by advances like the internet?  Wollstonecraft  thought inherited wealth made equality impossible?  What kind of  economic system might she support now?

The Purpose:  There are two purposes in this assignment 1) show that you understand some key points about of the figures we’ve discussed in terms of how they feel about the struggle for truth, knowledge, independence, and equality.  You can demonstrate this through well-chosen evidence and summary/analysis of your evidence 2)  show that you understand how the different figures may compliment/agree  or contradict/disagree with each other.  You can demonstrate this by thoughtfully structuring your assignment to think about how the figures would interact with and respond to each other. and 3) show how these thinkers’ ideas might relate to daily life in 2022.

The Details:  Your assignment should use at least three well-chosen quotes from  the readings we’ve done.  Cite the page numbers of any quotations and  make sure the quotes are in “quotation marks.”  The different figures  can also summarize quotes (please also give the page numbers) analyze  quotes or quotes from other thinkers and respond to each other using  quotes or engaging in dialogue.

Your panel should include at least three writers/artists we’ve  discussed and each should have roughly equal air time on the show.   Remember that you must include either Wollstonecraft or de Gouges, and  two other authors/artists/thinkers of your choice.  If you choose to  include a fourth participant, it’s fine if they play a smaller role,  like in the example below 🙂 Remember that this is a “Think on Your  Feet” essay, which means you shouldn’t spend more than 90 minutes or so  on it (though you might take some additional time to find good  quotations).  This essay should be between three and five doublespaced pages long (between 750 and 1,250 words).

Finally, you should have some fun with this assignment if you can!

Sample Start of a Successful Essay:

Moderator:  Welcome back!  Sorry we had  to take that emergency break after things got a little rowdy between a  few of our guests.  In case you’re just tuning in, with us on the show  are Touissant L’Overture, Denis Diderot, Jean-Honore Fragonard, and Mary  Wollstonecraft.  I’ve separated Wollstonecraft from Fragonard and she  promised during the break she’d try not to hit him again if he talks  about women as sexualized objects in art.

Wollstonecraft: (adjusting her wig which was dislodged during the fight) I didn’t promise anything.  If he’d just stop mansplaining about the masterpiece of women’s bodies as sexual objects for a second maybe he’d be able understand them as thinking female subjects struggling for independent thought.   It’s like I said in “A Vindication…” “It is vain to expect virtue from  women till they are in some degree independent of men” (619).  How can  women think for themselves when they are completely dependent on men?  Of  course they’re sexy.  That’s the only way they can make it in the  world!  We’ve got to change the system.  And frankly as I I’ve been  doomscrolling Instagram and seeing all these ridiculous filters and  facetuning features people are using, I’m not even sure that anything  has changed.  Women and men are still putting up false appearances and  are totally consumed with maintaining or achieving higher status in the  world.  

Diderot:  Mary, calm down!  You’re so angry at JH that you’re not event talking about how cool it is in the 21st century!  Thanks  to the wonders of the Internet and self publishing it is so much easier  for me to get the ideas of the Encyclopedie out there which is  ah-mazing.  And you all know how much time, effort, and money I put in  to getting it written and what a pain it was.  But I worry that unlike  what I promoted back in France in the 1790s that some of the information  I’ve found out there, especially when I’ve been on twitter (follow me  at @DDiderot, btw!) seems pretty sketchy.  And if  we are truly in an “intellectual daring” moment in time in which all  “things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception” then  why are there so many polarizing viewpoints and suspicions of people who  think differently from each other( Encyclopedie 18)  ?   There’s a lot of potential, but the vast world of 21st century  knowledge and “truth” scares me too.   It seems like some of the  “thinking” I see on the internet is not really being investigated  carefully.

L’Overture:  Well practically speaking I love that I  can use different forms of communication to let my friends and  countrymen know what’s going on out there.  You want to talk about fake  news?  Think about me trying to get information about our priorities as  the newly free people of San Domingue out by literally having to get my  army to literally post it on poles and trees in various cities around San Domingue.   I wish we’d had even a newspaper–Twitter would have been a godsend.   Do you know how hard it is to get a proclamation to stay up on a tree?   Not exactly an efficient way to get the message out!  And all those  letters I wrote to Napoleon who totally ghosted me and no way to  communicate with my family back at home!  Brutal!  But  Denis, even though people seem so split on issues, the fact that  everyone seems to have a voice and a way to share ideas seems like a  pretty significant positive change to me.  It’s what I’d hoped for so  much and it reminds me of the Fifth Article of the San Domingue  Constitution — “No other  distinctions exist than those of virtues and talents, nor any other  superiority than that granted by the law in the exercise of a public  charge. The law is the same for all, whether it punishes or protects.”   It’s all about how smart you are and how virtuous you are.  Not about  your skin color.  If people have good ideas and are virtuous and  industrious about putting them out there, their talents show and they  are successful and prosperous.

Wollstonecraft:  But Touissant…I still see so many ways that inequities exist…!  What about….etc. etc. etc.

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