IN HIS SEMINAL essay 'What Is Enlightenment?' the great Immanuel Kant wrote that the aim of enlightenment is thinking and choosing for oneself - and, more to the point, thinking fruitfully and choosing wisely. That in turn requires being well informed. But mere information is not sufficient; one's information must be organised into knowledge. And the knowledge must not be mere knowledge for its own sake, but knowledge which gives rise to insight and understanding.
The enduring symbol of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment is a work which set out to answer this precise need. It was designed to be nothing less than a tool for the education, illumination and, hence, liberation of the human mind. It was the Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts