“We do not live in an enlightened age, but we live in an age of enlightenment…”

1804 was the year that the Enlightenment ended. This week came many efforts to reform the UK legal notion of libel, which, in its current situation is far from the Enlightenment values that we so value. The enlightenment values are the values of Areopagus; the organisation which comprises members of the Noumenal realm.

I have become sceptical of such reasoning about a ‘golden age’. Often we are to mention the phrase about “protecting Rome from the barbarians”, but really were the Romans so civilised? Their civility came from their unique ability to organise and establish bureaucratic and administrative systems; and yet this is the very ill that I hate about today’s organisation of hierarchical structures. When was there a more noble time away from the practice of using procedure to mask human stupidity and lack of skill? The tyrants of the polis era were noble in their intentions and political and lawmaking will; but they still used crude means of rule, albeit by comparison to Romans, they were far less brute.

We can find all too much wrong with any of our percieved ‘Golden ages’. It all depends on our values. I’d propose as a crude measure, that these following factors would be crucial; necessary and sufficient conditions for any notion of a ‘Golden age’:

1. Social and national security
2. Good political and economic relations with other states
3. Egalitarian
4. Meritocracy (which has often been associated with Aristocracy for largely historical and contingent reasons)
5. Intellectual freedoms/the autonomy and separation of an intellectual caste

At the moment, the crisis of UK universities and higher education management is undermining the independence and overal research agenda and goals of academics from a level that is ubiquitous. There are also issues concerning the ‘diversity’ discourse undermining the right to criticise. It was those values of free enquiry that brought us to this level of social security and economic and intellectual richness; and yet those very values are being undermined.