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PragerU’s Dishonest Explanation of the Enlightenment

What was the Enlightenment? According to a recent PragerU video featuring Israeli author Yoram Hazony, it was an era that ushered in two centuries of disaster — from the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars to the horrors of twentieth-century Marxism and Nazi eugenics — by inordinate reliance on reason. As for the wonders often attributed to Enlightenment reason — modern science, medicine, political freedom and market economies — they are, Hazony claims, actually a legacy from religious conservatives who venerated “history, tradition, and experience.”

But is Hazony right? Does he accurately paint a picture of what the Enlightenment was, how it came about, or what it rests on? In a word, no. According to analysis by Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate and Greg Salmieri in a recent episode of the The Yaron Brook Show, Hazony’s presentation fails to capture the essence of the Enlightenment and its development. Instead, Hazony distorts the achievements of Enlightenment thinkers by offering a parade of straw men, false alternatives and “package deals.”

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In their analysis, the trio offers strong evidence that Hazony’s is not merely an ignorant or slanted view of the facts but a dishonest presentation. His goal, Ghate says, is not to explain how the Enlightenment fostered science, freedom and exploding prosperity but to take over those achievements by crediting tradition-bound religious conservatives while scorning reason.

The commentators urge viewers not to take their word on this topic — or any other for that matter — but rather to acquire a first-handed view of the subject by reading from the several recommended sources mentioned in the episode. For anyone interested in how to analyze complex historical movements, this discussion is a must-watch. You can access the full discussion on your favorite podcast platform or listen on YouTube:

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Paul Taske

Paul Taske, J.D., is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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