The Enlightenment: A Brief History

Psychology in Everyday Life
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www.crossbaymedia.com/wp-content/common/suite-no-2-in-e-minor.php About the Author Margaret C. John Locke, Some Thoughts concerning Education, 2. Treatise of the Three Impostors, 3. Voltaire, Letters concerning the English Nation, 4. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Letters, — 5. Denis Diderot, Encyclopedia, 6. Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment?

Show More. Average Review. On the other hand, liberty was widely espoused by Enlightenment thinkers, who were also largely against nationalism and more in favor of international and cosmopolitan thinking.

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The philosophes were deeply critical, indeed even openly hostile, to the organized religions of Europe, especially the Catholic Church whose priests, pope, and practices came in for severe criticism. The philosophes were not, with perhaps some exceptions like Voltaire at the end of his life, atheists, for many still believed in a god behind the mechanisms of the universe, but they railed against the perceived excesses and constraints of a church they attacked for using magic and superstition. Few Enlightenment thinkers attacked personal piety and many believed religion performed useful services.

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Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. They were the people who designed the buildings and supervised their construction. Part Two: The Legacy Why does it matter? In the Middle Ages, the Masons guild had members with various skill levels. One element that attracted the upper reaches of society was the mathematical skill of these architects. Number 5 is graduated sanctions. MCJ : Well, yes, I think there is, to the extent that people tended to trust their brothers more than perhaps someone else.

Indeed some, like Rousseau, were deeply religious, and others, like Locke, worked out a new form of rational Christianity; others became deists. It was not religion which irked them, but the forms and corruption of those religions. The Enlightenment affected many areas of human existence, including politics; perhaps the most famous examples of the latter are the US Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

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Parts of the French Revolution are often attributed to the Enlightenment, either as recognition or as a way to attack the philosophes by pointing to violence such as the Terror as something they unwittingly unleashed. There is also debate about whether the Enlightenment actually transformed popular society to match it, or whether it was itself transformed by society.

The Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment - World History - Khan Academy

The Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries era was followed by that of a reaction, Romanticism, a turn back to the emotional instead of the rational, and a counter-Enlightenment. For a while, in the nineteenth century, it was common for the Enlightenment to be attacked as the liberal work of utopian fantasists, with critics pointing out there were plenty of good things about humanity not based on reason.

Enlightenment thought was also attacked for not criticizing the emerging capitalist systems. There is now a growing trend to arguing that the results of the Enlightenment are still with us, in science, politics and increasingly in western views of religion, and that we are still in an Enlightenment, or heavily influenced post-Enlightenment, age. More on the effects of the Enlightenment. There has been a lean away from calling anything progress when it comes to history, but you'll find the Enlightenment easily attracts people willing to call it a great step forward.

The powers and uses of reason had first been explored by the philosophers of ancient Greece. The Romans adopted and preserved much of Greek culture , notably including the ideas of a rational natural order and natural law. Amid the turmoil of empire, however, a new concern arose for personal salvation , and the way was paved for the triumph of the Christian religion. Christian thinkers gradually found uses for their Greco-Roman heritage.

Enlightenment

The system of thought known as Scholasticism , culminating in the work of Thomas Aquinas , resurrected reason as a tool of understanding but subordinated it to spiritual revelation and the revealed truths of Christianity. The intellectual and political edifice of Christianity, seemingly impregnable in the Middle Ages , fell in turn to the assaults made on it by humanism , the Renaissance , and the Protestant Reformation.

The Renaissance rediscovered much of Classical culture and revived the notion of humans as creative beings, and the Reformation, more directly but in the long run no less effectively, challenged the monolithic authority of the Roman Catholic Church. For Martin Luther as for Bacon or Descartes, the way to truth lay in the application of human reason.

Received authority, whether of Ptolemy in the sciences or of the church in matters of the spirit, was to be subject to the probings of unfettered minds.

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The successful application of reason to any question depended on its correct application—on the development of a methodology of reasoning that would serve as its own guarantee of validity. Such a methodology was most spectacularly achieved in the sciences and mathematics , where the logics of induction and deduction made possible the creation of a sweeping new cosmology. The success of Newton , in particular, in capturing in a few mathematical equations the laws that govern the motions of the planets , gave great impetus to a growing faith in the human capacity to attain knowledge.

At the same time, the idea of the universe as a mechanism governed by a few simple—and discoverable—laws had a subversive effect on the concepts of a personal God and individual salvation that were central to Christianity. Inevitably, the method of reason was applied to religion itself.

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The product of a search for a natural—rational—religion was Deism , which, although never an organized cult or movement, conflicted with Christianity for two centuries, especially in England and France. For the Deist, a very few religious truths sufficed , and they were truths felt to be manifest to all rational beings: the existence of one God , often conceived of as architect or mechanician, the existence of a system of rewards and punishments administered by that God, and the obligation of humans to virtue and piety.

Beyond the natural religion of the Deists lay the more radical products of the application of reason to religion: skepticism , atheism , and materialism. The Enlightenment produced the first modern secularized theories of psychology and ethics. John Locke conceived of the human mind as being at birth a tabula rasa , a blank slate on which experience wrote freely and boldly, creating the individual character according to the individual experience of the world.

Supposed innate qualities, such as goodness or original sin , had no reality. In a darker vein, Thomas Hobbes portrayed humans as moved solely by considerations of their own pleasure and pain. The notion of humans as neither good nor bad but interested principally in survival and the maximization of their own pleasure led to radical political theories. Where the state had once been viewed as an earthly approximation of an eternal order, with the City of Man modeled on the City of God, now it came to be seen as a mutually beneficial arrangement among humans aimed at protecting the natural rights and self-interest of each.

The idea of society as a social contract , however, contrasted sharply with the realities of actual societies. Thus, the Enlightenment became critical, reforming, and eventually revolutionary. Locke and Jeremy Bentham in England, Montesquieu , Voltaire , Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Denis Diderot , and Condorcet in France, and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson in colonial America all contributed to an evolving critique of the arbitrary, authoritarian state and to sketching the outline of a higher form of social organization, based on natural rights and functioning as a political democracy.

Such powerful ideas found expression as reform in England and as revolution in France and America. The Enlightenment expired as the victim of its own excesses.

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The more rarefied the religion of the Deists became, the less it offered those who sought solace or salvation. The celebration of abstract reason provoked contrary spirits to begin exploring the world of sensation and emotion in the cultural movement known as Romanticism. The Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution severely tested the belief that an egalitarian society could govern itself. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.