I know several Enlightenment-era philosophers such as Smith and Locke were responsible for diminishing what Arendt calls "the realm of the political" and then they proceeded to reduce humans to their economic roles which Arendt says is a problem of modernity. So are Modernity and Enlightenment the same? I know Marx was a product of the Enlightenment but is this as opposed Modernity?

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    Enlightenment is chronologically confined to 17-18th centuries, whereas modernity, in the broad sense, lasted until the 20th. Enlightenment ideas are just a subset of modern ones in that broad use. In the narrow use, such as Marx's, modernity is what crystallized after the Enlightenment, see Heller, Marx and Modernity, the capitalist system he opposed and wanted to replace.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 20:06
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    Added tags "arendt", "enlightenment". Cleaned up typos.
    – J D
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 23:44
  • @JD There's still a typo in "<odernity" at the end.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 17:12
  • @Tsundoku Hai. Domo arigato,, tomodachi!
    – J D
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


Modern Christian writers refer to "modernity" as the era in which God and religion were set aside as the ultimate sources of knowledge, and they were replaced by science and reason. The Enlightenment would have been the onset of the Modern era, but would have been only partially modern, as so many thinkers of that era retained religious presuppositions. In this usage, Marx would have been an entirely modern thinker. Marx CRITICIZES the unitization and commodification of selfhood that comes as part of the "modern" mind, but his counter proposals are no more embedded in communities or humane values than the capitalism he opposed.

"Post"-modern thinking involves the realization that our "rationality" itself is suspect, and all "rational" claims carry their own set of hidden intuitive presuppositions. Post-modern thinking seeks to restore senses of community and belonging.

A few references: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/126985.All_That_Is_Solid_Melts_Into_Air https://bonald.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/book-review-the-end-of-the-modern-world/ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46412.The_Consequences_of_Modernity https://idealsandidentities.com/2022/01/07/charles-taylor-the-malaise-of-modernity-in-the-21-century/

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    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 6:03

It is certainly true that The Enlightenment is associated with Modernism-(or Modernity), though the deeper origins of Modernity can be found a few centuries earlier in Northern Italy-(specifically referring to, "The Renaissance"). It was really The Northern Italian Renaissance which spawned or catalyzed what would we typically define as "Modern" and continues to remain the birthplace of The Modern West.

However, if one asks, "When does Modern Philosophy begin?", there are a few debatable answers. Some might say it began with Nicolo Machiavelli during The Northern Italian Renaissance. Others would say that it was Rene Descartes in Early Modern France, while some might insist that it was a tie between John Locke and Baruch Spinoza...all of whom were Pre-Enlightenment Philosophers and the Pioneers of Modern Philosophical Thought. The Enlightenment's Philosophical All-Stars include, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, Adam Smith and even The American Founding Fathers-(i.e. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and George Mason). George Hegel did live during the later years of The Enlightenment, though he is more associated with the early 19th century.

Karl Marx, was not an Enlightenment era Thinker. Marx was a 19th century Modern intellectual who lived generations after the end of the Enlightenment. Marx, in his early years, was a Hegelian and was likely influenced by Rousseau-(an actual Enlightenment era Thinker and Writer); however, that did not necessarily make him "a product of The Enlightenment". Marx was very much, "a product", of the 19th century Industrial Age, which deeply influenced the Anti-Capitalistic ideas he put forth in his writings, such as The Communist Manifesto and Das Capital.

The Enlightenment, historically speaking, was "a product" of the aforementioned influences. It is unlikely that The Enlightenment would have succeeded in helping to Modernize and advance philosophical thought without such earlier influences.

  • I believe it is better to keep Rousseau out of the Enlightenment web of intellectuals, and consider him as an actor of the counter-Enlightenment movement
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 10:31

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