21st century enlightenment – an outline


So it’s time for the rubber to hit the road or some other ghastly metaphor. I have fixed a date for my 21st century enlightenment speech (June 17th) and I have committed to writing a longer accompanying pamphlet. So this week’s task is to write an outline. This will hopefully encourage me to think a bit more systematically and also to work out how best to deploy the resources of my very part time research assistant.

Here goes:

Part one – the very idea of 21st century enlightenment. I explore the argument that the enlightenment was not just about new ideas but a more fundamental shift in consciousness. The question is whether we need a shift of similar magnitude today.

Part two – why do we need 21st century enlightenment? I explore here the challenges which may not be met without a shift in consciousness. I have identified three: tackling climate change, environmental degradation and resource depletion, achieving human security and dignity on a global scale and promoting human fulfilment and well-being. I develop the idea of sustainable citizenship and explore why conventional approaches are found wanting.

Part three – towards a new consciousness. I explore here what might be the elements of a new world view. Very tentatively, the main themes are post-consumerism, fostering empathy and reciprocity, living with complexity.

Part four – fragments of a new world. Here I identify some of the debates and innovations that speak to the possibility of 21st century enlightenment. I need to think much more about this, but the list may involve: attempts to redefine progress in terms of well-being, initiatives to promote good parenting and new models of schooling, the emergence of new cross disciplinary areas of research, innovative forms of collaboration.

Part five – here I explore the importance of institutions (something on which I focused at the end of my last post) and link what we are trying to do with the RSA with the ideals of 21st century enlightenment 

As the pamphlet will be about 7,000 words and the lecture about half that, I will have to paint with very broad brush strokes. My thinking (and my reading list) has been helped by the discussion of my previous posts so I look forward to comments on this.

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