Steven Pinker Says The Enlightenment Not A Characteristic of the West Alone

Steven Pinker, Harvard prof and a serious academic and public intellectual, has tweeted out that the West is not alone in being rooted in Enlightenment ideals. “I argue that the ideas are based on reason & universal human interests, so belong to no culture.” And again, “The Enlightenment can’t be identified with the West: Many prestigious W intellectuals despise it (Romantics, Nietzsche, Heidegger, existentialists, Critical Theorists, postmodernists, nationalists, Greens, theoconservatives, faitheists, many others).”

I have responded as have many others. I just don’t see how this stands up to critical examination. Even a passing familiarity with the East demonstrates that the individualism, rationalism, and note of classic liberalism are absent from the collectivist mysticism of Asia. The West was self-consciously in an Enlightenment phase, a la Immanuel Kant’s work, “What Is The Enlightenment?”

Sure, not all accepted this phase, and Pinker names some. But some is not all, or even near all. This flattening out of the Enlightenment is just another attempt to put in another nail in the coffin of the West.

I have great regard for Pinker, but his is overreach and unworthy of his scholarship. It feels more like a PC meme, unworthy of Pinker.

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