Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
"One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
"People aren't going to change, for better or for worse. Technology's going to be so cool. All in all, the future will be okay! * "
Some Eighteenth century people believed that reason and science are good and things would just go on improving forever, and this optimism characterized a period that came to be known as the Age of Enlightenment. Eventually, though, a sense of disillusionment and alienation from society began to spread, and the Romanticist
movement rose up as a backlash. Romanticists believed that the advances made by the Enlightenment were creating an oppressive, conformist, totalitarian society
, and that science and rationality could never hope to truly understand the world and the human personality. Though the Enlightenment and Romanticist movements are long gone, the general ideas behind each survive today.
Romantic and Enlightened themes are very common in fiction. For example, Enlightenment-themed science fiction might portray the future as a world of progress, friendship
, brotherhood and Crystal Spires and Togas
, with barbaric forces
threatening the new utopia
(e.g. Star Trek
). Romanticist-themed science fiction might portray the future as an unpleasant Crapsack World
, with high technology but low social quality, full of depression, dehumanization and alienation (e.g. everything Cyberpunk
Romanticism and Enlightenment are also tied to the Dionysian (wild, visceral, ornate) and Apollonian (restrained, cerebral, classicist)
ideals of aesthetics in the arts. Compare the Apollonian/Enlightenment musical style of Mozart
with the Dionysian/Romantic musical style of Wagner, for example, or the Apollonian/Enlightenment style of ancient Roman architecture with the Dionysian/Romantic style of medieval Gothic architecture.
Writers and artists tend to gravitate towards Romanticism; scientists and (in most places) politicians favor the Enlightenment. Seeing as Most Writers Are Writers
, Romanticism is generally overrepresented in media, with the exception of Science Fiction
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Romanticism is aligned with Nature, Enlightenment with Science. Related to this, as the trope suggests Nature is inherently 'feminine' and Science inherently 'masculine'. Depending on how the work treats these dynamics, Closer to Earth may make an appearance.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: Elves are usually nature loving romanticists, dwarves are often on the verge of an industrial revolution.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: Romanticism accepts emotions as the only true way to understand the world, Enlightenment may believe that emotions are an impediment to rationality.
- Harmony Versus Discipline: In general, Romanticism is closer to Harmony and Enlightenment is closer to Discipline, but with notable deviations—each side is much more complex than just Harmony or just Discipline.
- Order Versus Chaos: Enlightened individuals see progress as a means to maintain order whilst Romanticists openly acknowledge and even embrace the potential chaos
- Technician Versus Performer: Enlightened are Technicians, Romantics are Performers.
- Magic Versus Science: If magic and science are both present, magic will be on the side of the Romantics and science will be the tool of the Enlightened. If there's no science to speak of and the conflict is The Magocracy versus the Anti-Magical Faction, magic will swap sides to the Enlightenment and the anti-magic forces will be Romantics. On the other hand, if magic and science are combined into a form of Magitek, Team Enlightenment will see this as valuable and progressive while Team Romanticism will see this as dangerous and soul-destroying.
- Science Fiction Versus Fantasy: While there are many exceptions, science fiction (glorious future) tends towards Enlightenment, fantasy (glorious past) towards Romanticism. This occasionally leads to some Fandom Rivalry between the two, particularly SF readers (and writers, most notably including David Brin) who perceive fantasy as inherently reactionary.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Romanticism tends towards the cynical, but with a large amount of deviation. The Enlightenment is more complicated:
- Enlightenment figures from the European continent, particularly (for some reason) Germany, really were idealistic and optimistic (take Kant and Leibniz as examples). Other Continental Enlightenment types (like Voltaire—no, not that one) were willing to admit that most Humans Are Bastards, but trusted in the virtue of some people to keep things improving.
- Enlightenment figures from the British tradition tend to assume absolute cynicism—Humans Are Flawed animals and Machiavelli Was Right, in their opinion—and then proceed to create institutions that guide that cynicism to public benefit (think of Ethical Hedonism, Hobbes and Lord Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees). In other words, it's a position that transcends the Sliding Scale: They're idealistic about the big picture (society) because they're cynical about the small one (the individual).
Tropes usually associated with Enlightenment:
Tropes usually associated with Romanticism:
Tropes shared between them, but handled in different ways:
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Romanticists believe that Curiosity Killed the Cast, or at least make us Go Mad from the Revelation and turn us into nihilists, the Enlightened do recognize that curiosity does have its flaws, but overall it can be used for further learning and self-improvement.
- Democracy Is Bad: Although democracy tends to be an Enlightened philosophy, many Enlightened works and philosophers actually prefer a technocracy (e.g., Plato's Republic, and the Federation from Star Trek). However, the Romanticists generally just want to return to good old-fashioned Feudalism. However, it is still possible for a Romantic to adhere to Democracy, but it's likely to be the simpler direct Disaster Democracy type where every human individual has a say in decision-making (ala Athens or tribal confederations), not the modern republican bureaucracy that Romanticists denounce as dehumanizing.
- Fictional United Nations: Can be portrayed as either useful or useless in much the same way as Democracy Is Bad. The Romanticist sees the Fictional United Nations as hamstrung by the realities of international politics where powerful nations will still run riot over weak ones (see the League of Nations). The Enlightened depict the job as tricky but not impossible, with the participants more inclined towards enlightened self-interest and willing to work together for the greater good.
- Humans Are The Real Monsters: The (mostly British) Enlightenment acknowledges wholeheartedly that humans really are incredibly selfish, materialistic, pleasure-obsessed, aggressive, impulsive, short-sighted, miserable, and otherwise...bastard-y animals (just see Hobbes Was Right), and this selfishness is biologically and neurologically immutable (e.g. pain, fight-or-flight, fear, hunger, sex, "The Selfish Gene", and such). For cynical Singularitarian Transhumanists, the only method that will abolish this selfish gene is through evolution into The Singularity where pain is nonexistent (e.g. Instrumentality scenarios). The more Humanist side, however, do believe that we don't need destroying humanity and recreating it anew, because our selfish genes can be harnessed for the Greater Good if they can be used as rewards for productive behaviour—this is why they advocate utilitarianism, democracynote and to a lesser extent the incentives provided by industrial capitalism.note Romanticists generally agree with the "bastardy animals" idea, but they tend to accept it and not the "utilitarianism converts bastardy animalness into prosperity" solution.
- Inherent in the System: The Enlightened response is to say, "And so, we should make a better system," and then start squabbling about what "better" means. The Romantic response is more variable, but very often tends to be "And so, we should destroy the system."
- Liberty Over Prosperity: Enlightenment tries its best to combine the two, Romanticists say the Enlightenment basically went He Who Fights Monsters and is slowly sacrificing Liberty for Prosperity (See the bit about World Half Empty below).
- Postmodernism: Both the Postmodern and Romantic movements basically emerged as a backlash against modernity and the Enlightenment. However, Postmodernism registers about equal scepticism towards both Romanticism and the Enlightenment, questioning the reality of Romantic concepts like authenticity, naturalness, and truth, while also questioning the usefulness of Enlightened concepts like progress, value, and objectivity. Postmodernism is thus viewed unfavourably by both groups, while it in turn views each as interesting and useful when taken with a grain of salt.*
For an example of how this works, consider the important proto-postmodern text Dialectic of Enlightenment, which critiqued modernism and Enlightenment as being nothing other than an extended, totalitarian form of the same (Romantic) primitive world-mythology that grips all people - "[M]yth is already enlightenment; and enlightenment reverts to mythology."
- The Social Darwinist: Romanticists warn about the Enlightened's descent into amoral Evilutionary Biologists obsessed with Evolutionary Levels (Nazi comparisons galore). On the other hand, the Enlightened denounce Romanticists (more specifically, the Luddites) as savages glorifying the dog-eat-dog the-weak-get-killed-off brutal Crapsack World of the past (The Dung Ages comparisons galore).
- Society Is to Blame: The Enlightened response is to say, "And so, we should change society," and then start squabbling about how to do it. The Romantic response is more varied.
- Straw Nihilist: Romanticists see the Enlightenment as converting humanity into a race of nihilists, thus in Romanticist works such nihilists are usually portrayed as Enlightened people who failed to find an objective proof for a "meaning in life" (For a contemporary version of this, see Cyber Punk, with high technology but existential angst). The Enlightened tend to see nihilists as Romantics who have abandoned rationalism but failed to find anything to replace it with. Existentialists, incidentally, are found on both sides.
- World Half Empty/Dystopia: Enlightenment advocates will usually believe that "widespread ignorance causes Dystopia" (sometimes bringing up the era that they called the "Dark Ages") and squabble about how education will save us all from it. Romanticists, on the other hand, love deconstructing Enlightenment dreams into Dystopias themselves. For example, in Romanticist dystopian fiction, a Dystopia will usually be portrayed as an Enlightenment society that went He Who Fights Monsters and became the same dystopia that it was trying to solve (see also: Reign of Terror, Big Brother Is Watching, Crapsaccharine World, and so on). Romanticists are also more likely to point out that "it is not too much ignorance, but too much conformity, that causes Dystopia" (sometimes bringing up various totalitarian governments inspired by Enlightened ideas, such as Communism). Romanticist visions of a Utopia tend to hark back to "a lost Golden Age" and bringing that back, rather than building something new; the Enlightened response is often that blind adherence to tradition leads to Dystopia.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Romanticism believes that Measuring the Marigolds too much decreases the awe, Enlightenment believes that a deeper scientific understanding of the workings of the world can actually increase the awe through fuelling our curiosity.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The artificial evolution committee Seele is Enlightenment Utilitarianism to the extreme, with their Trans-Humanist ideology of using science to destroy the Angels, ascend the Evolutionary Levels, and assimilate humanity into The Singularity to abolish the physical/biological/existential selfishness and suffering that exists in every individual. In contrast, the angsty Shinji develops a Romanticist philosophy in The End Of Evangelion. In the end he appreciates his depressing individual life despite his full knowledge that it's a Crapsack World and everybody probably hates him, culminating in him deciding to reject the paradise of Instrumentality and live a primitive but individualistic lifestyle in a desolate Earth.
- Macross straddles the gap between Real Robot and Super Robot, but slams the dial hard towards Enlightenment.
- The Gundam franchise in general is actually heavily Enlightened and idealistic at its very core — even in the worst of times. Sometimes it is deconstructed, but generally, humanity growing to live in space in a new age of science is the end result, and all other things are just consequences of it. The actual events are rather pessimistic though, ironically enough.
- The Universal Century flip-flops back and forth on the scale. The proto-transhumanist "anti-Earth" note ideology of Zeon Zum Deikun is highly Enlightened (supporting humanity moving away from Earth and evolving into Newtypes), but various series portray this as a bad thing, a good thing, or a good ideology corrupted by fascist assholes. Incidentally, the Axis Zeon movement is highly Romanticist, as their leader Haman Khan believes that Humans Are Bastards and is (theoretically) fighting to restore the fallen Zabi family, but this faction is portrayed entirely negatively. Put another way, in the Universal Century, ideology is mainly an excuse for people to kill each other, and neither Enlightenment nor Romanticism comes off particularly well.
- In Princess Mononoke, the forest gods and animals are Romanticist, and the humans living in Iron Town are Enlightened (especially in their industrial ambitions and egalitarian treatment of downtrodden types like lepers and ex-prostitutes). In the end, peace is achieved on Romanticist terms, with the surviving villagers deciding to work in harmony with the forest. The Romantic figures are destroyed entirely, and while Iron Town may be destroyed, it will be rebuilt better than before since its residents better understand their relationship to the natural world. The ending is more a Hegelian Re Construction, where the Enlightenment side accepts the Romantic "dystopia" critique and moves forward with a better understanding. That ending is actually very pro-Enlightenment, as a core value of the Enlightenment is rejecting dogmatism in favor or better ideas when one has more knowledge - which can include swallowing the Romantic critique in its entirety. In other words, an Enlightenment figure can evaluate a Romantic De Construction, say, "You're right!", and find a repair while still remaining entirely an Enlightenment figure.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes is based on a conflict between the Romanticist-based Galactic Empire and the more Enlightenment-based Free Planets' Alliance. Neither of these are treated as a particularly ideal society.
- Origin: Spirits of the Past is complicated, on the one hand you have the Forest versus the industrialized nation of Ragna, on the other hand the Forest is anything but natural and destroyed the old civilization that Ragna (or at least Shunack) is obsessed with recreating.
- One Piece is this, though it's more idealism vs. cynicism. One of the strongest themes running through the show is the power of dreams, and the ability to do anything if you want it hard enough, opposed by characters (especially Bellamy, in the Jaya sub-arc) who don't believe in the power of dreams or True Companions.
- "Witch Hunter Robin" presents a Romantic notion of witchcraft with neo-Victorian costumes.
- The Magical Girl genre generally tends toward Romanticism.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The cold ruthless Totalitarian Utilitarian Enlightened scientific Incubators who will do anything to harvest energy and reverse entropy, versus Homura's equally ruthless Romanticist Anti-Hero-ism who will do anything for the sake of protecting her beloved Madoka. Madoka provides a decision buffer between the two conflicting philosophies; she is disgusted upon both of them for their antiheroism, but also at the same time appreciates their intentions, knowing that Incubators try to prevent Heat Death and liberated mankind from the Stone Age, while Homura is doing her best to protect Madoka.
- It goes much deeper than that. Some people have called Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Anti-Evangelion, as the philosophy is entirely different. Whereas in Evangelion, the main character transforms from a depressed boy who hates himself to a happy boy who appreciates his shitty life in the last episode, while preventing the Assimilation Plot, Madoka transforms from a girl who hates herself to…a happy girl who essentially kills herself and disembodies her spirit in order to create a new system where all magical girls are saved while the Energy system is not compromised. Madoka let the Kyubey exist to prevent Entropy and give humanity civilization, only that the worst and unnecessary waste products of the Puella Magi system (witches) are gone. Given that she simultaneously assists Kyubey in his goal of preventing the heat-death of the universe, and that she gives up her self to help fix the world, it seems like a rather Enlightened work to me. If Madoka straight-up wished that Kyubey didn't exist and accepted her life as "naked and living in caves" while the universe dies from entropy, it would be Romanticist.
- Black Lagoon is strongly romanticist from the art style and shot composition to character motivations to the heavy Rule Of Cool in action scenes. Balalaika's rationalist ideology and fighting style, Enlightenment, make her that much more intimidating as a result.
- The conflict between The Emperor (Enlightenment) and the citizens of Equestria (Romanticism) in the Legends Of Equestria continuity is clearly one of these. The Emperor favors a completely technology-driven society, built on the principles of mechanization and a rigid social structure. The inherent ideals of the ponies instead favor a more communal and friendly society.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a huge advocate of Enlightenment. The protagonist, Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres, is a rationalist who grew up with enlightenment ideals. The writer, Eliezer Yudkowsky, is the founder of Less Wrong, a blog dedicated to rational thinking. Within the fanfic, Dumbledore represent the Romanticism, while Harry represent Enlightenment.
- Star Wars is a thoroughly romanticist work: While nominally a science fiction story, it is heavily inspired by high fantasy. The Wagner-flavored music highlights this.
- Jurassic Park. The owner was a believer in Enlightenment reason with the cloned dinos, while the Romantic heroes sensibly pointed out the various flaws in his park.
- Fight Club is Romanticist, as befits anything based on the heavily Nietzschean-influenced work of Chuck Palahniuk. Palahniuk's novels often uses a Crapsack World to show the flaws of Team Enlightenment, have some Team Romantic protagonists show up and reject it, then break the protagonists into bits by the end of the novel. This certainly happened to the narrator of Fight Club, everyone in Haunted 2005, and the protagonists of Choke and Invisible Monsters. In both the film and book of Fight Club, the narrator ultimately rejects Tyler Durden's hyper-romantic goals, though the denouement in is radically different in the film and movie.
- The Bridge on the River Kwai features this clash, although it is thoroughly subverted: Colonel Nicholson of Team Enlightenment believes so passionately in law and order that he ends up turning to Honor Before Reason, and collaborating with his Japanese captors in order to stay in command of his men. The wild, defiant Warden, representing Romanticism, ultimately behaves more rationally. At least compared to the Colonel.
- The Sherlock Holmes movie in 2009 has Sherlock being pro-Enlightenment, and the movie's villain, Lord Blackwood, being pro-Romanticism. Seeing that Holmes is a hero protagonist, it's safe to say that the movie is pro-Enlightenment.
- True Grit is a movie about the End of the West, and Mattie firmly takes the side of Enlightenment. Rooster Cogburn is very Romanticist, as are most of the Ned Pepper gang, and La Boeuf is somewhere in the middle, trying to be Enlightenment but with a few Romanticist hang-ups.
- Equilibrium is a clearly Romanticist work, as it is about an evil futuristic society where emotion is outlawed, and the extreme Enlightenment idea of suppressing all emotion through technology is definitely shown as wrong.
- The first Pirates of the Caribbean film has an odd case of this (let's ignore the fact that the setting is actually when Enlightenment was just getting into its stride and Romanticism hadn't been born yet- the series is famous for its Anachronism Stew in more obvious ways). The very Romantic Elizabeth and Will struggle against the Enlightenment mentality of her father and presumed future husband, and... actually comes out the winner. The implication of the whole story is that Enlightenment is sensible, but wrong, and Romanticism is silly, but happens to be right (a Sparrowvian sentiment if ever there was one...)
- Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance is about classicism (enlightenment) vs romanticism.
- Andrew Miller's Pure is set just before the French Revolution, before the days of Romanticism, but deals with basically this conflict. Should we sweep away the past and look rationally towards a better future, or is history too much a part of us, societally and emotionally?
- Lord of the Rings is often read as a pro-Romanticist parable on the evils of industrialization. Which is what it is...except when it's not. J.R.R.T. was a much more subtle and sophisticated thinker than that, and his view was that both 'Reformers' (liberals, social planners, industrialists, Progress, Enlightenment) and 'Embalmers' (reactionaries, clinging to the past for its own sake, close minded, Romantics) were flip sides of the same bad thing, and both tendencies could be and were used by Melkor (the master of Evil) and his servant Sauron in their plots. The creation of the Rings of Power, for example, combined a Romantic desire to preserve the past and stop change with an Enlightenment faith in the power of Reason and Science and Logic to make the progression of time stop. Sauron played the Elves like a piano using both tropes, and thus brought about the creation of the Rings. Likewise, there was good in both the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and this too was shown to be true among those characters in the story who remained at least partly uncorrupted and loyal to God.
- Rudyard Kipling is an example of both the good and bad sides of Enlightenment— he genuinely thought Western imperialism was helping the non-Western "savages", but tended to express that in a way we now perceive as condescending at best and racist at worst.
- He also had a romantic side to him as was expressed in his aesthetic appreciation of fishermen, soldiers, railwaymen, and all the various cultures in India. Really he was fascinated by anyone who lived differently from him.
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is distinctly Romanticist— it treats society (in the form of the Combine) as a corrupting force, suppressing and perverting emotion, and using technology to achieve its nefarious ends.
- C. S. Lewis:
- Tended to be suspicious of Enlightenment and more Romanticist in taste. Which is interesting as Lewis had a personality closer to The Spock than The McCoy. Though in The Four Loves Lewis once snarked that no one could really learn good and evil from "a vernal wood" unless they had an idea of it before hand and that someone could draw a lesson Wordsworth would not approve of as creatures in vernal woods spend a lot of time eating each other.
- Lewis is on record, though, as saying, with regard to human relations (as contrasted to relations with other classes of being, such as beasts or God), he is a democrat because Humans Are Bastards and no individual or clique can be trusted with too much authority over their fellows. However, democracy has its own corruptions, notably "Demonic Democracy," described by Screwtape in "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," as social pressure that demands no one be excellent, since this would violate "equality."
- Screwtape, a senior devil, continually advises Wormwood to rely on deception, jargon, and emotion to keep his human from acting morally and ethically. He wants the human thinking about "That was a phase," "This makes me happy," or "That idea is courageous," rather than the more banal questions, "Is this true?" or "Is this just?" Awakening the "patient's" reason would be a terrible idea according to Screwtape, as many of the decisions of the Hell-ward road have no rational justification at all. That's as enlightenment as it can get.
- In his little-read "Pilgrim's Regress," Lewis had two allegorical characters named "Mr. Enlightenment." They were father and son, both negative figures. The father was a cocksure "village atheist" who dismissed philosophy, religion, and romanticism without looking into them, assuming we've Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. The son was a pathological Freudian who claimed every disagreement with his position was a self-serving rationalization. "Pilgrim's Regress" is subtitled as a "defense of romanticism" (among other things). Later editions include a long postscript in which Lewis, a literature professor by trade, dissects about a dozen different meanings of "romanticism" and discusses each one.
- Dune is a peculiar take on this, viewing a society that is decidedly Romanticist from a lens that could be either Romantic or Enlightened depending on how one chooses to see Frank Herbert.
On one hand, Herbert deconstructs the Robot War in the series' backstory (the Butlerian Jihad), treating its effects realistically, but he doesn't seem to criticize the (Romanticist) premise of the trope. On the other hand, although he used—nay, made and codified—the (Romanticist) Feudal Future trope (which he presents as the logical conclusion of the changes wrought by a realistic Robot War), he does not present the Imperium as a particularly nice place to live for most people (regardless of whether a Corrino or Atreides is on the Golden Lion Throne), and is said to have commented that (Kevin J. Anderson's so-called prequels notwithstanding) the series is supposed to end with the establishment of a real democracy (in other words, Good Republic, Evil Empire=Enlightened).
On the whole, Herbert tended to warn against the excesses of science, but on the other hand, he never rejected it as a force for good; being that his fundamental philosophy was "environmentalism," which seeks to protect nature (Romanticism) from the excesses of industry (Enlightenment) but often uses rationalistic justifications (Enlightenment) and the tools of science (Enlightenment) to do so. The only character in his oeuvre who might be seen as an Author Avatar is Liet-Kynes (and his father Pardot), who are decidedly Enlightened in outlook (their dream is to terraform Arrakis from a desert planet into a verdant, more ordinary planet, with oceans and plants and everything).
Herbert's wiser characters in Dune recognize that the Universe is too big, complex, mutable, and powerful for Englightenment logic to ever entirely encompass: in that it's Romantic. Yet science and logic and politics and reason are not bad, as long as those using them remember that they have limits that they can not escape, and they can never entirely escape the tendency of the Universe to surprise them. (In that sense, he's rather like arch-Enlightenment guy Carl Sagan.)
- The Baroque Cycle portrays some Enlightenment figures as almost latter-day superheroes.
- Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time can have multiple interpretations but no matter how you cut it, comes off on the side of Romanticism.
- H. P. Lovecraft, pioneer of the extremely cynical, Romanticist and Gothic Horror-laden Cosmic Horror Story genre, did like modern astronomy, and took a stance that's closer to Enlightenment (not the idealistic kind, but more similar to the British tradition that tended towards the Humans Are Bastards perspective). This is in contrast to fellow Weird Tales contributor Robert E. Howard was certainly a diehard Romantic who believed civilization was an aberration; obviously, this discussion came up often in their correspondence.
- A Song of Ice and Fire might initially seem to be romantic, as the protagonists are mostly feuding nobles, but then it makes it pretty clear exactly how much life sucks under absolute monarchy.
- Shadows of the Apt has the magical and highly traditional Inapt races (Romantic) and the forward-minded, technologically-oriented Apt races (Enlightenment).
- David Brin, of course, is one of the most vocal critics of Romanticism (or "Pining for Feudalism") in the SF&F community.
- The Uplift series is an unusual example, essentially every alien race in the series is more technologically advanced than Earthclan, but they are utterly stagnant due to all their technology coming from the Library handed down from their ancestral species. Whereas humans prefer to use as much technology that they developed themselves as possible and have often used their interest in scientific advancement to their advantage.
- In The Postman the Holnists represent romanticism with their campaign of conquest aimed at making themselves the feudal lords of post-apocalyptic America, while Gordon's reformed United States and Cyclops represent enlightenment.
- Also a central theme of Brin's most recent novel, Existence. The new aristocracy consider the enlightenment a failed experiment and seek to return humanity to a form of feudalism (after all 99% of human societies couldn't be wrong, could they?) and the often allied Renunciators want to restrict technological progress. Meanwhile others attempt to create artificial sapience or revive the neanderthals. The Artifact exacerbates the argument, especially when it turns out that the emissaries' species are all extinct, the Renunciators insist that technology must have killed them while the elites jockey for opportunities to upload themselves into the Artifact copies (and for their troubles get tricked into becoming part of a solar system spanning telescope)
- Chuck Palahniuk's novels, mentioned under Film, usually feature a strong criticism of the Enlightenment with their Crapsack World settings. The protagonists then wind up to be strongly Romantic individuals who are terribly messed up, often as a result of their Romanticist views. For example, Fight Club may be taken as a testosterone-fueled criticism of modern life, but the protagonist winds up rejecting everything his Sensei for Scoundrels hoped to do, shoots himself in the face to try to undo his plans to shake modern society, and winds up committed to an asylum. Haunted is a set of short stories critical of the world of Enlightenment interlaced with the Romantic-heavy physical and moral breakdown of the jerkasses who wrote them. Diary features a protagonist whose Romanticism essentially makes her powerless while the Enlightenment world around her wrecks her life and Romantic forces push her towards a supernatural disaster her Enlightenment intellect can't save her from and haven't been able to save her from for two previous cycles of reincarnation. Phew.
- William Morris, with his utter disdain for 19th century industrialism and visions of rural idylls based on simple craftsmen making beautiful things, falls firmly into the Romantic camp. News From Nowhere can be seen as a Romantic response to Edward Bellamy's pro-Enlightenment Looking Backward.
- Brave New World: The technocratic Totalitarian Utilitarian Free-Love Future World State is a dystopian deconstruction of the Enlightenment utilitarian post-scarcity utopia; everyone's basic biological pleasures are provided for by the advanced technology, but this scientific society also ends up encouraging neglect for creativity and individuality (e.g. family tropes such as pregnancy are banned for causing Oedipus Complex, no one is interested in True Art Is Incomprehensible, and Romeo and Juliet is comedy), while use of genetic engineering for happy but disturbing ends forms one of the bases for society (e.g. Humans now all have perfect health but also a Hive Caste System, one end being the retarded but perfectly contented slaves, and the other being the intelligent alphas who needed said slaves to look down upon). On the other hand, the Savage is Romanticist, appreciating his life of pain and superstition, and considers the World State to be amoral and unnatural.
- Star Trek:
- Very Enlightened, particularly with the Vulcans. Who were, in turn, occasionally proven wrong by more romantic types. Which conveys, if clumsily, the idea that both are right in the right place and wrong in the wrong and the problem is deciding which is which.
- Klingons and Romulans in some interpretations (as edgy-but-not-necessarily-evil Proud Warrior Race s rather than Always Chaotic Evil races) are more romantic whereas Vulcans are more enlightenment. Vulcans have some surprising romantic traits like mysticism and dark tribal traditions as was shown in the episode Amok Time. The humans may actually be the best examples of enlightenment in the Trek verse.
- The Borg are a heavily dystopic take on Enlightenment, speedily adapting to every new technology they see and subsuming individuals to make their race stronger. Of course, they're the bad guys, so Romanticism gets its turn in the sun whenever the Borg are the Monster of the Week.
- If Michael Eddington is anything to go by, the Maquis breakaway from the Federation has elements of Romanticism in conflict with the prevailing Enlightenment ideology of the Federation. Though their initial grievance was the handover of their colonies to the Cardassians, they also value the rugged frontier lifestyle above the utopian society of the Federation.
Eddington:Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We've never harmed you. And yet we're constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation.
- Gene Roddenberry's posthumously produced series Andromeda has the heroes trying to rebuild a democratic interstellar Commonwealth while fighting Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes, environmental extremists, and other enemies who are harder to place. In one episode the captain convinces a newly crowned feudal monarch to abdicate in favor of a democracy.
- The X-Files: Mulder is on the Romantic side (being willing to forget Ockham razor in many circumstances) and Scully is on the Enlightened one (always searching for a scientific explanation). However, they swap roles when it comes to religion, since Mulder is agnostic while Scully is Catholic.
- Firefly is a deconstruction of this entire trope, with Enlightenment being the major driving force of the 'verse, but Romanticism being an ever present part of the less developed worlds, like the ones the main characters find themselves on. Overall, the works of Joss Whedon strike a happy medium between the two. The episode Safe, though, is almost a Take That to romanticism. One of Simon's insults to the crowd that wanted to Burn the Witch! was "ignorance". Simon himself, being a doctor who went to the best Alliance-sanctioned schools, leans hard toward Enlightenment. His (eventual) love interest Kaylee leans very Romantic, which complicates their relationship.
- The Doctor was always classically Romanticist. In fact, most if not all of his chronic enemies were Enlightenment thinkers. The Daleks and the Cybermen had a sort of "Utopian" goal of destroying everything not Dalek or Cyber. Yet, in ways, it sort of switched. On occasion the Doctor displayed both ideals simultaneously while the villains of the week always overprofessed one or the other.
- Babylon 5:
- Romantic in spirit, with high pitched Melodrama, fantastic scale, prophesies, fate, and Good Old Ways. Moreover Delenn who was one of the most central characters was The McCoy and she didn't really have The Spock to balance her (Franklin was the closest thing to a Spock and he didn't interact with Delenn much).
- On the other hand, B5 also presents a struggle for a better, more rational future, and emphasizes the importance both of backward-looking rootedness (in the Minbari) and of forward-looking independence (in the humans). In the other words, a happy marriage of Romanticism and Enlightenment, embodied in the similarly happy marriage of John Sheridan and Delenn.
- From a Doylist perspective, J Michael Straczynski is an emphatic liberal, a deep-seated believer in science, and a thoughtful atheist (i.e. all Enlightenment) who nevertheless clearly has deep respect for thoughtful conservatives/traditionalists and people of faith even as he criticizes the excesses of religion. In other words, Enlightenment respecting Romanticism and giving it its due—and given that much of B5 is at least partly an Author Tract, this comes the closest to expressing the show's overall tone.
- NUMB3RS might be a poster boy show for Enlightenment but Larry Flinhardt is a romantic and often has friendly tension with Charlie about this.
- LOST has this as a central conflict with Jack representing the Enlightenment and Locke (ironically!) representing Romanticism. Ultimately Romanticism wins, as Locke turns out to have been right about everything, as Jack admits.
- Cat Stevens:
- "Father and Son portrays both the Enlightenment, with the rational, restrained father, and Romanticism, with the passionate son who feels restricted by his father. Since the son seems to be a more sympathetic figure, the song is decidedly Romantic.
- "Where Do the Children Play?" is strongly Romantic too, as it laments the destruction of nature that comes with "development."
- On the other hand, "Peace Train" is definitely Enlightenment, with its focus on progress and a good future.
- In addition to Apollo and Dionysus cited above, a famous rivalry that perfectly encapsulates this debate in Classical Mythology is Athena versus Poseidon. Poseidon is the older god, ruler of the sea and storms, famous for being moody and passionate. Athena, however, is the goddess of strategy, wisdom, justice and peaceful arts, who is perfectly at home in the cosmopolitan city of Athens.
- Traveller hit both, depending. But it was probably more enlightenment.
- The Forever War between the Sword Worlders and the Darrians is a war of hats of Romanticism versus Enlightenment, as the Sword Worlders are a Proud Warrior Race and the Darrians are For Science!. Each thinks the other barely sane. The Third Imperium is more enlightened in it's ideology on the whole. Individual factions within it have a more romantic outlook.
- Aslan, though are more Romanticist than the Imperium. Having much more in common with the Sword Worlders save that their social structures have barely progressed beyond tribal levels.
- In the Intersteller Wars the Terrans are mostly Enlightenment being For Science! and thinking Good Republic, Evil Empire. They do have some romantic traits like glory seeking and Space Cossacks. Vilani are harder to place; they are closer to strains of thought that existed long before either romanticism or enlightenment, resembling Confucianism in some ways.
- The Hivers are quite firmly enlightenment, having a society that can be best described as "anarchic socialism" and being not only highly technologically advanced but also quite willing to share it with less fortunate races.
- The Zhodani don't fit neatly into either position; they have an Orwellian police state that's apparently a fairly nice place to live, if you have psionic abilities or don't mind having your mind read by the authorities.
- The World Of Darkness, especially the original Gothic-Punk setting, is heavily Romantic. Civilization is essentially decadent and corrupt and just a tool for this or that Ancient Conspiracy of supernatural beings to manipulate or feed upon Apathetic Citizens. Elder vampires use their awesome power to maintain their autocratic authority against their rebellious younger childer. Brutal Noble Savage werewolves rage against evil corporations in league with Eldritch Abominations trying to pollute and destroy Mother Earth. Mages engage in a centuries old battle of Magic Versus Science with the heroic player characters losing against the Science Is Bad villains. Changelings long to return to Arcadia but never can and must face dying out from the lack of belief in the supernatural among the humans. The Fallen have broken out of Hell only to find a world (which they helped to Create) utterly devoid of faith, God, and Her angels.
- The old Plane Scape Dungeons & Dragons setting had the Blood War, a genocidal conflict between two different races of demonic beings. One side supported tyranny, order, infernal justice, conformity, and iron discipline. The other were Axe Crazy maniacs who believed individuality was so important that letting hordes of their own die trying to prove individual worth was better than forcing them to actually act like their more disciplined enemies. Given one side would remake the cosmos into the fantasy version of Dante's Inferno, and the other into Milton's Hell, neither is right. Then, on top of that, there are philosophic "guilds" players can join which grants them power and access, provided they believe as the group does. These groups range from the far-Enlightenment Fraternity of Order to the completely Romantic Society of Sensation. Not only is no one portrayed as right, but even allegiances frequently transcend the conflict. The Athar are Deists in the Jefferson/Locke vein, and their greatest allies are the thoroughly Romantic Believers of the Source - who worry about past lives and ascension.
- Mass Effect portrays an Enlightenment-based future, with benign technological advances and an orderly galactic government. The outlook of your crew varies— they include Romanticists like the Whitman-spouting Ashley and Enlightened like Mordin Solus who justifies aiding in the Krogan sterility plague with utilitarian logic. Paragon Shep's egalitarian views and support for the Citadel hint at an Enlightened streak.
- Halo: Oddly enough. This whole spectrum of thought is speculated on and brought out in the story in the hidden Terminals throughout the game. In the story, it presents the struggle between the Flood and the Forerunners, with the Flood presenting it's invasion as necessary for life's eventual evolution as a ultimate species and as a stage in evolution for the universe as a whole eventually. On the other side, the Forerunners keep the stand that they are guardians for the genetic diversity in the galaxy and should impend any step in evolution if necessary to keep that diversity, even if flawed and eventually self-destructive at times.
- Fallout New Vegas features Caesar's Legion as the Romantics, and NCR and Mr. House as the Enlightenment. You, as the Wildcard possible fourth endgame victor, can go either way as fitting your Wildcard nature.
- Touhou is weird about this. The youkai that make up the vast majority of the cast literally depend on romanticism to survive, needing to be believed in and gaining power from the natural order being observed. But there's a general trend of an ordered society forming, and one of the major factions is working to increase the technological level.
- Planescape: Torment includes a conversation between a demon (chaotic evil) and a devil (lawful evil) about which is the right way to spread evil. The parallel to this trope is conspicuous, with the demon giving the romanticist argument that evil is worthless if it stripped of passion, and the devil making the enlightened argument that evil is just a mob's rioting if it is not ordered.
- R-Type, in spite of being a simple shoot 'em up genre, bears a hint of Romanticism, which the Bydo embed themselves in, against the Enlightened background of advanced technologies the R-Fighters represent.
- Pokemon Black And White has Opelucid City as well as their exclusive location based on either, depending on the version; Black has Black City with Opelucid City being high-tech (Enlightenment) while White version has White Forest with Opelucid City being eco-friendly (Romanticism).
- And meanwhile, in Black you can obtain Reshiram, symbolizing the older brother who sided with truth (Enlightenment), while in White you can obtain Zekrom, symbolizing the younger brother who sided with ideals (Romanticism).
- Pathologic has The Bachelor (Enlightenment) and The Haruspex (Romanticism) against each other to save the Polyhedron or the town at the end.
- xkcd is Enlightened. As the Existentialist says, "The future's pretty cool!"
- Gunnerkrigg Court. The Court is Enlightened; Gillitie Woods is Romantic.
- Girl Genius is a strange hybrid. It's about science fiction and solving problems with machinery, which is sort of Enlightenment ... but it's "adventure, romance, and mad science!, with tones of gothic, Frankenstein, and Lovecraftian mythos ... but all the Sparks have a strong manic streak, so they're happy and cheerful amid the doom, destruction, and tentacled horrors. It's just that kind of a story.
- The Legend of Korra has the "Enlightened" (modern, technology-using, "equal-rights"-demanding) Equalists and the "Romantic" (traditional, magic-using) heroes.
- Avatar The Last Airbender has Romantic heroes (led by a messiah from the past, no less), while the Fire Nation used to represent the Enlightenment, but that has long since devolved into mere propaganda. Eventually, Zuko learns to spread the Enlightenment ideals of the old Fire Nation peacefully, instead of through conquest.
- Sonic Sat AM is Romantic with the villain's industrialized city and roboticised minions while the heroes live in the forest and are led by royalty.
- The message of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is decidedly romantic at first glance; emotions and friendship are important, and the Enlightened main character must learn that lesson repeatedly. However, it's not quite that simple; Twilight Sparkle's perspective is shown as having its flaws, but she's far from "always wrong," and her task-oriented character, intelligence and logical skills help save the day at least as often as they cause problems for her. The actual moral tends to be that the Enlightenment needs to give Romanticism its due, but that doesn't make it a bad thing.
- The Romantic movement produced a lot of good poets. Like, a lot of them.
- On the other side of the coin, the early Enlightenment, contrary to the above, tended towards the Humans Are Bastards perspective, which led to a fair number of good satirists, such as Voltaire (no not that one) and Benjamin Franklin.
- The Enlightenment also produced a few poets, the most notable of whom were Germans: Friedrich von Schiller is more or less entirely Enlightenment, while Goethe's work has shades of both.
- Soren Kierkegaard, considered the first existentialist philosopher, was overwhelmingly romanticist in outlook, going so far as to openly scorn Enlightenment philosophy.
- The late 18th century saw two major Enlightenment-inspired revolutions, The American Revolution and French Revolution, both resulting in experimental republics showcasing Enlightenment ideas on governance. It worked in America. In France... not so much.
- World War II— fascism, Nazism and nationalism have roots in Romanticism and an emphasis on folk bloodlines, love/worship of the Fatherland, and history (Hitler in particular had a Wagnerian Opera-like worldview), while democracy and communism are cosmopolitan ideologies supported by Rationalists, scientific Empiricists, Utilitarians and other Enlightenment philosophers, making the conflict a case of Romanticism versus Enlightenment.
- Ironically, the technological advance was the exact inverse - the Nazis explored ever newer technology and systems to kill while the Allies and Soviets mostly expanded on what they had, leading to the situation of Nazi Germany being outnumbered by stuff that actually worked.
- The idea of German scientific advances during World War 2 is a well known myth. While the Nazis were interested in technological advances that would empower them, they were not especially interested in scientific advance for its sake, as illustrated by many Jewish physicists such as Einstein forced out of Germany and German-controlled territories before and during the war. The distinction between technology and science noted by Orwell in 1984 applies.
- You can twist that around to be the opposite too. the Nazis justified themselves with Evolutionary Levels and wanted the world to conform under their rule for (what the party thought was) the best future for humanity, which is pretty firmly on the enlightenment side. On the other hand the allies could be seen as people who were defending their individualism from an expanding empire, defending diversity is firmly romantic, for example.
- In a similar sense, the Spanish Civil War between the Nationalists (conservatives/monarchists/fascists) and the Republicans (liberals/anarchists/socialists) could be considered a conflict of Romanticism versus Enlightenment.
- Both Representative Democracy and Communism are different spins on the same Enlightenment ideas, equality for the masses, with some Ethical Hedonism and meritocracy thrown in. The result being that the Cold War was an uncommon case of Enlightenment vs. Enlightenment.
- Democracy was more Individualistic in its ethical hedonism (you're free to do anything to yourself as long as you don't kill or hurt others) while Communism is obviously based on hardcore Totalitarian Utilitarianism. In this case, democracy can also lean to Romantic; the concepts of liberty, individualism, uniqueness and preserving diversity are also associated with Romanticism, and Romanticists preferring primitive non-bureaucratic democracies isn't really strange.
- Winston Churchill was closer to being a romantic while Roosevelt was more enlightenment.
- Organic Farming (Romanticism) vs GM Farming (Enlightenment)
- Nuclear Energy (Enlightenment) vs Renewable Energy (Romanticism) This one's a bit more complicated. While hostility to nuclear energy can be motivated by Romantic ideals, there are also perfectly Enlightened reasons to support renewable energy.
- This is matter of pragmatism versus idealism more than anything else. Nobody really opposes renewable energy. The pro-nuclear camp, however, argues that current renewable technologies can't meet the needs of society (except in rare places where they do (such as Iceland which is well situated for geothermal power)). While these technologies catch up, it is best to use the available cheap nuclear power. Those who strongly favor renewable energy often argue that a drastic switch is absolutely necessary as soon as possible. The camps split along the same lines covered under 'inherit the system', ie one side argues for a gradual change of the current system and the other wishes to change the system radically.
- Traditional Architecture: Neoclassical (Enlightenment) vs Gothic (Romanticism).
- This even had political overtones: do you ever wonder why the US Capitol and White House or the French Palais Bourbon (seat of the National Assembly)note look like Greek and Roman temples while the British Houses of Parliament and Canadian Parliament Hill look like medieval cathedrals? Because in the first half of the 19th century, the Neoclassical style was associated with Enlightenment republicanism, while the Gothic style was, being Romanticist, associated with monarchism. Indeed, Neoclassical designs were seriously considered for both Westminster and Ottawa, but then dismissed on the grounds that they were too republican.
- On the other hand, both Parliament Hill and Westminster, while Gothic in style, have balanced, Neoclassical-style floor plans and other elements of Neoclassical design (e.g. an emphasis on symmetry). You'll notice that the Commons chamber and meeting rooms on the north side at Westminster are more or less reflected across the Central Lobby on the Lords side to the south, with only a few things fiddled with to accommodate the slightly different duties of the Commons and the Lords (for one thing, the Lords has to host the State Opening of Parliament, meaning that an assortment of rooms are necessary for the procession of the monarch) and to accommodate the inclusion of Westminster Hall (which had survived the 1834 fire and had been part of the palace since the reign of William II; they weren't about to knock it down). The symmetrical construction rather annoyed Augustus W. N. Pugin, a devoted Romanticist Gothic architect brought in to assist the more classicist Charles Barry in building the Palace of Westminster (he famously commented of the structure, "All Grecian, sir; Tudor details on a classic body"). Had he lived long enough, he would have been even more annoyed with Centre Block in Ottawa, which is almost completely symmetrical, with the Senate chambers on the east side of Confederation Hall being a mirror image of the Commons chambers on the west side. However, both Westminster and Centre Block arguably present, in architectural form, the character of liberal-democratic constitutional monarchy: traditional trappings on an emphatically modern form.
- 20th-century Architecture: Modernism (Enlightenment) vs Post-Modernism (Romanticism)
- Psychology had this trope. Sigmund Freud's structural-psychoanalytical studies of the subconscious mind, its exploration on how past subconscious memories are influential in the development of a human being, and other psychological theories inspired by it, were dismissed as obsolete and unscientific (modern psychology nowadays is based on behaviourism, cognitive science and neuroscience, all of which are based on the scientific method being applied to the study of the human brain, in the manner of how Enlightenment philosophies like to apply the scientific method on pretty much anything), but instead of being banished into obscurity, it won and still stands strong in the more Romantic and artistic fields of philosophy such as the Post Modern Literary Criticism crowd, where tropes are more important than sanity, hence why in fiction, All Psychology Is Freudian. Thus, Psychoanalysis = Romanticism, Behaviourism = Enlightenment.
- Ironically, Freud himself was kind of an atheist who, like the English Enlightenment, believed humans are subconsciously a bunch of selfish animals that act on pre-programmed neuro-biological instincts (this theory provided the basis for modern neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, although Freud took it to extreme with the "everything is about sex" part) which contrasts him to his more spiritual rival Carl Jung who disagreed with Freud leaving out the more spiritual and mystical archetypes in human psychology.
- Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces about comparative mythical traditions is naturally more romanticism given it's subject.
- Richard Dawkins' book Unweaving The Rainbow is a detailed and staunch defense of the Enlightenment position; not only because Enlightenment positions happen to be true (in the provable, testable sense that Romantic positions... tend not to be, and with the Enlightenment's emphasis on the scientific method), but also because - in Dawkins' opinion - it is beautiful. It was written as an answer to those who suggest that True Art Is Incomprehensible and science drains the wonder from the world by explaining its mysteries.
- Carl Sagan often referred to science as being 'romantic' (as in the title of one of his books, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science), but not in the actual Romanticist sense - his philosophy was, like Dawkins after him and many other scientists and popularizers of science, heavily towards the side of Enlightenment. On the other hand, he believed that Measuring the Marigolds could lead you to conclude that The World Is Just Awesome, in both the Romanticist and Enlightenment senses. Subversion?
- Analytic Philosophy (Enlightenment) and Continental Philosophy (Romanticism). Although, early Continental Philosophy tended towards Enlightenment (take Kant and Leibniz as examples).
- The 1960s was a mixture of both. The "hippie" counterculture, with its wild, passionate lifestyle, its rejection of society and materialism in favour of more bohemian ways, and its glorification of nature, was decidedly Romanticist. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Movement occurred at the same time, and that movement leaned toward the Enlightenment, with its focus on equality and progress. Many people were involved in both the counterculture and the Civil Rights Movement, proving that Enlightenment and Romanticism can coexist peacefully.
- One of the more common justifications of European Colonialism is that the imperial powers were spreading the benefits of the European science and technology (the Enlightenment), to the rest of the world. Because of this, most Post-Colonial Scholarship tends to have a strong Romantic streak, and looks upon the Enlightenment and everything associated with it, with suspicion.