It has become fashionable to speak of the Enlightenment as an idiosyncratic construction by European males in a bygone era, one way of thinking among many different constructions generated across time by a legion of other minds in other cultures, each of which deserves careful and respectful attention. To which the only decent response is yes, of course - to a point. Creative thought is forever precious, and all knowledge has value. But what counts most in the long haul of history is seminality, not sentiment. If we ask whose ideas were the seeds of the dominant ethic and shared hopes of contemporary humanity, whose resulted in the most material advancement in history, whose were the first of their kind and today enjoy the most emulation, then in that sense the Enlightenment, despite the erosion of its original vision and despite the shakiness of some of its premises, has been the principal inspiration not just of Western high culture but, increasingly, of the entire world.