Are we living in an age without ideas or facts? When historians look back to 2017, how will they define this period of American thinking? With a president like Donald Trump, historians might view our time as an era when “idea" became a dirty word. But those characterizations stray far from the founding principles of America's fascinating relationship with ideas, facts, and curiosity itself.
Caroline Winterer is a professor of history at Stanford University, and author of the new book American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason. Her new work examines the period leading up to the Revolutionary War — a period many view as an era of "American Enlightenment."
But, as she discovered, the politicians, artists, and scholars of the time did not set out to be part of some formalized period of "Enlightenment" that history would later recognize and label as such. In fact, she argues that the idea of "American Enlightenment" was first used during the Cold War in an attempt to shield America from the fascist, communist and totalitarian ideals of Europe.
Join us as Winterer discusses American ideas, past and present, and the challenges facing American enlightenment in the era of the Trump presidency.
A provocative reassessment of the concept of an American golden age of European-born reason and intellectual curiosity in the years following the Revolutionary War