Caroline Winterer, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (Yale University Press, 2016)
Book Review by Lilian Calles Barger.
Here is a podcast conversation with Caroline Winterer hosted by Lilian Calles Barger.
Caroline Winterer’s latest book, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason looks among eighteenth-century Americans for multiple answers to Immanuel Kant’s famous question: What is enlightenment? For centuries, enlightenment had a religious meaning of the soul awakening to divine light; however, by the 1700s it came to mean using reason and empirical evidence as guides and exchanging tradition and divine revelation for a humanistic and historical view of the world. The aim was nothing short of the pursuit of happiness, an idea connected to communal wellbeing and largely lost to us today. Winterer’s insightful book gives us a glimpse into how Americans, as the “first prophets of tomorrow,” thought of enlightenment—both what it meant and how to achieve it (2).