The Enlightenment was period ofintellectual and growth. During the Enligtenment, people started to believe that all men werefree people. The declaration of rights of Man states “men are born free and areequal in rights.” This was a new concept of that time.
People had not thoughtabout others as being equal. Everyonewas equal and can live their lives according to their wishes, within certainguidelines. Enlightenment was a philosophical movement in 18th century Europe,characterized by belief in the power of human reason and by innovations inpolitical, religious and educational doctrine.This movement rejected social,traditional, political, and religious norms and values and adopted freethinking for development of new ideas and theories for human behavior and theirfeelings. These new ways were then applied to political and social boundries,changing the people views and thought about government, and directlyinfluencing the development of modern world.
The enlightenment presented achallenge to traditional religious views. Enlightenment thinkers were theliberal of their days. It brought ideas in moral and natural philosophy andshifted away from metaphysics and supernatural towards focus upon human natureand physics. Significantly, TheEnlightenment represented adoption of critical attitude instead of cultural andintellectual traditions. The forty-volume L’Encyclopedie (1751–1772), compiledby the important Enlightenment thinkers Denis Diderot (1713–1784) and Jean LeRond d’Alembert (1717–1783), idealized the Enlightenment thinker, orphilosophe, as one who “enslaves mostminds”, and “dares to think for himself” (Diderot 1751, 5:270). A generation later, the German thinker ImmanuelKant (1724–1804) says “enlightenment is when a person grows out of hisself-imposed immaturity. He defines immaturity as one’s inability to usehis own understanding without the guidance of another.” He described purpose ofenlightenment in simple manner as ” Have courage to use your ownreason”.
(1988,462).INTENSIFYING THE SCHOLARLYSPHERES:The Enlightenment took advantageof new forms of cerebral exchange. David Hume (1711–1776) was known as one ofthe important figures of Enlightenment.
He worked for recognition of differencebetween matters of facts and matter of values. He saw humanity as more inclinedto emotion than to reason. He complained against the exclusivity of earliergeneration and asserted on bringing knowledge popular and closeted learned tosocial able world of politeconversations in academies, salons, debating societies etc. in His period,books became smaller, cheaper and accessible.
This was witnessed time ofperiodical press, of newspaper and magazines. Literacy rate was increased amongthe middle class men, meant that people read pamphlet essays and novels intheir leisure time.IMPROVEMENT AND UTILITY:During the seventeenth century,European intellectuals quarreled over whether contemporary “modern” Europeanthinkers had surpassed their “ancient” Greek and Roman counterparts, and thisdebate gave rise to the Enlightenment belief that better ways of thinking andbehaving had emerged in recent decades.
The sense of modern improvements led toa faith among the philosophes that the new ideas and methods would guaranteeindefinite progress in politics, society, and the arts and sciences. “If one looks at all closely at the middleof our own century, the events that occupy us, our customs, our acheivementsand even our topics of conversation , it is difficult not to see that a veryremarkable change in several respects has come into our ideas; a change whichby its rapidity, seems to us to foreshadow another still greater. Time alonewill tell the aim, the nature and limits of this revolution, whoseinconveniences and advantages our posterity will recognized better than wecan.” -Jean Le Rond d’Adrento The philosophes took up thecause of improving their social and natural surroundings through experiment andreform. Societies and academies, such as the English Royal Society, emerged inwhich innovative ideas and techniques were presented, debated, and recommended.From agricultural techniques to zoological taxonomies, progressive reform wasan important Enlightenment ideal associated with another Enlightenmentprinciple: utility. Hume (1902, 183) wrote that “public utility is the soleorigin of justice.” In their emphasis upon principles of progress and utility,most Enlightenment thinkers were the heirs to the “moderns” in the quarrel ofthe ancients and moderns.
PHYSICAL AND HUMAN NATURE:The sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies saw European thinkers challenge inherited ideas about the physicaluniverse. Medieval thinkers had built elaborate cosmological systems uponclassical, and particularly Aristotelian, foundations. But in many fields, suchas physics, applied mathematics, and especially astronomy, new discoveries andexplanations put forward by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Galileo Galilei(1564–1642), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), among others, challenged thepicture of a finite, Earth-centered universe and replaced it with a potentiallyinfinite universe and a sun-centered system. Explanations of the physicaluniverse thus increasingly presented it as analogous to a mechanism, governedby rational, mathematically expressible rules, which a divine power may havecreated but with which it did not need to interfere. There were Enlightenment thinkerswho were ‘atomists’ but who believed the atoms were active (Leibniz at onepoint in his career at any rate, was one of these).
Nevertheless the passiveconception predominated and it was this that entered into later conceptions ofhow the universe was thought of by the Enlightenment. It was thought as of madeup of minute hard passive particles.Rousseau’s beleifs on humannature believing that all men in a state of nature are free and equal. In a state of nature, menare “Noble Savages”. It means that people are not born evil, but are corruptedby society and turned evil. Enlightenment thinkers viewed human nature interms of a morally neutral tabula rasa, or blank slate, that could be molded invarious ways. They applied the idea of a social tabula rasa, or state ofnature, to explain how civil society might have emerged and ought to begoverned. Many Enlightenment thinkers, such as Hobbes, the Marquis d’Argenson(1694–1757), Montesquieu (1689–1755), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778),argued that political stability could be guaranteed by organizing society as amachine in which each component worked in harmony with the rest.
Still others,like Locke in his The Second Treatise ofGovernment (1689), used the idea of a state of nature to define the boundariesof state power in guaranteeing political stability. RELIGION AND POLITICS: Drawing on the scientific revolution, which hasdemonstrated that the physical world was governed by natural laws, men such asEnglish philosopher John Locke argued that similar laws applied to humanaffairs and were discoverable through reason. Protagonist of the Enlightenmentalso examined religion through the prism of reason. Rational Christianity, asits extreme, argued that God created the universe, established the laws ofnature that made it work, and then did not interfere with the mechanism. Thisconcept of God as a watchmaker is known as Deism.
The Enlightenment, or age ofEnlightenment, rearranged politics and governments in earthshaking ways. Thiscultural movement embraced several types of philosophies, or approaches tothinking and exploring the the world generally, Enlightened thinkers thoughtobjectively and without prejudice. Reasoning, rationalism, and empiricism weresome of the schools of thought that composed the Enlightenment. A fascinatingjourney through the Europe of the Enlightenment in this important volume anextraordinarily incisive picture is offered to the reader. Religion and Poiticsin Enlightenment Europe is a fundamental work that solicits a renewedreflection on the great changes in progress in European society before theFrench Revolution and on the deeply dynamic role played by religion andparticularly by religious dissent to facilitate the difficult passage from theAncien Regime to the modern world.” –Professor Mario Rosa, Sculoa NormaleSuperiore.
ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE MODERNWORLD:Traditionally, “The Enlightenment” has been associated with France,America, and Scotland rather than Britain, which, strangely enough, is thoughtnot to have had an Enlightenment to speak of. RoyPorter effectively upsets this view in Enlightenment: Britain andthe Creation of the Modern World. Porter’s general concern is with “theinterplay of activists, ideas, and society,” and to this end he examinesinnovations in social, political, scientific, psychological, and theologicaldiscourse.
The key figures (the “enlightened thinkers”) read like a Who’sWho of the 17th and 18th centuries–Newton, Locke, Bernard de Mandeville,Erasmus Darwin, Priestley, Paine, Bentham, and Britain’s “premierenlightenment couple” Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, as well asthe men who helped popularize and disseminate their ideas, such as Addison,Steele, Defoe, Pope, and Sterne. The book is peppered with brilliant quotes,and although it covers such vast ground in a rapid and sometimes breathlessmanner, Porter just about manages to hold it all together.While returning the Enlightenmentto Britain, Porter also provides a persuasive general defense of the movementagainst its Foucauldian, feminist, and/or postmodern critics who still”paint it black.” It was perpetually dismissed as “anything fromsuperficial and intellectually naïve to a conspiracy of dead white men inperiwigs who provide the intellectual foundation for Westernimperialism,” and one of the book’s strengths is that after reading it,one finds it hard to understand how these “critiques” gained suchinfluence in intellectual circles. The major shortcoming of the book–as Porteris well aware–is that “too many themes receive short measure”:literature and the arts, political debate, the forging of nationalism, andmore. Several chapters, if not all, deserved book-length treatment, making thiswork of nearly 500 pages seem quite short. But if Enlightenment leavesthe reader unsatisfied, it is in the best possible way–one would have liked tohear more from Porter rather than less. Word has it he’s already planning anencore.
–Larry Brown, Amazon.co.uk –This text refers to an out ofprint or unavailable edition of this title. Enlightenment historiansstudied how each human society followed a definite and, for most philosophes,progressive development from a hypothetical state of nature to civilization.
This “conjectural history” implied definite hierarchies of cultures, and theEnlightenment was an important period in the development of culturalparticularism, which fed into the nationalist and racialist ideologies of thenineteenth century. The Enlightenment entailed the reformation of thought inpolitics, economics, science, philosophy and other fields. In this processScotland held an eminent, globally-significant position and influence. Researchinto this phenomenon can connect the ‘Enlightened’ ideas of Scotland’s greatthinkers with material, practical and other developments ‘at home’ and it canseek to understand the connections forged through the Enlightenment betweenScotland and the wider world.The new scientific and rationaloutlook associated with enlightenment was manifest in technological advanceswhich arose from Enlightenment research and which facilitated the growth ofindustrial production and fed the massive increase in consumption thatcharacterizes the eighteenth and nineteenth century.ENLIGHTENMENT AND POLITICALREVOLUTIONS:The heart of the eighteenthcentury Enlightenment is the loosely organized activity of prominent Frenchthinkers of the mid-decades of the eighteenth century, the so-called “philosophes”(e.g.,Voltaire, D’Alembert, Diderot, Montesquieu).
The philosophes constitutedan informal society of men of letters who collaborated on a loosely definedproject of Enlightenment exemplified by the project of the Encyclopedia. However,there are noteworthy centers of Enlightenment outside of France as well. Thereis a renowned Scottish Enlightenment (key figures are Frances Hutcheson, AdamSmith, David Hume, Thomas Reid), a German Enlightenment (die Aufklärung, keyfigures of which include Christian Wolff, Moses Mendelssohn, G.E. Lessing andImmanuel Kant), and there are also other hubs of Enlightenment andEnlightenment thinkers scattered throughout Europe and America in theeighteenth century.What makes for the unity of suchtremendously diverse thinkers under the label of “Enlightenment”? For thepurposes of this entry, the Enlightenment is conceived broadly. D’Alembert, aleading figure of the French Enlightenment, characterizes his eighteenthcentury, in the midst of it, as “the century of philosophy par excellence”,because of the tremendous intellectual and scientific progress of the age, butalso because of the expectation of the age that philosophy (in the broad senseof the time, which includes the natural and social sciences) would dramaticallyimprove human life.
Guided by D’Alembert’s characterization of his century, theEnlightenment is conceived here as having its primary origin in the scientificrevolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. The rise of the new scienceprogressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of thecosmos, but also the set of presuppositions that had served to constrain andguide philosophical inquiry in the earlier times. The dramatic success of thenew science in explaining the natural world promotes philosophy from ahandmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to anindependent force with the power and authority to challenge the old andconstruct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis ofits own principles. Taking as the core of the Enlightenment the aspiration forintellectual progress, and the belief in the power of such progress to improvehuman society and individual lives, this entry includes descriptions ofrelevant aspects of the thought of earlier thinkers, such as Hobbes, Locke,Descartes, Bayle, Leibniz, and Spinoza, thinkers whose contributions areindispensable to understanding the eighteenth century as “the century ofphilosophy par excellence”.The Enlightenment is oftenassociated with its political revolutions and ideals, especially the FrenchRevolution of 1789.
The energy created and expressed by the intellectual fomentof Enlightenment thinkers contributes to the growing wave of social unrest inFrance in the eighteenth century. The social unrest comes to a head in theviolent political upheaval which sweeps away the traditionally andhierarchically structured ancien régime (the monarchy, the privilegesof the nobility, the political power of the Catholic Church). The Frenchrevolutionaries meant to establish in place of the ancient régime anew reason-based order instituting the Enlightenment ideals of liberty andequality. Though the Enlightenment, as a diverse intellectual and socialmovement, has no definite end, the devolution of the French Revolution into theTerror in the 1790s, corresponding, as it roughly does, with the end of theeighteenth century and the rise of opposed movements, such as Romanticism, canserve as a convenient marker of the end of the Enlightenment, conceived as anhistorical period.For Enlightenment thinkersthemselves, however, the Enlightenment is not an historical period, but aprocess of social, psychological or spiritual development, unbound to time orplace. Immanuel Kant defines “enlightenment” in his famous contribution todebate on the question in an essay entitled “An Answer to the Question: What isEnlightenment?” (1784), as humankind’s release from its self-incurredimmaturity; “immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding withoutthe guidance of another.” Expressing convictions shared among Enlightenmentthinkers of widely divergent doctrines, Kant identifies enlightenment with theprocess of undertaking to think for oneself, to employ and rely on one’s ownintellectual capacities in determining what to believe and how to act.Enlightenment philosophers from across the geographical and temporal spectrumtend to have a great deal of confidence in humanity’s intellectual powers, bothto achieve systematic knowledge of nature and to serve as an authoritativeguide in practical life.
This confidence is generally paired with suspicion orhostility toward other forms or carriers of authority (such as tradition,superstition, prejudice, myth and miracles), insofar as these are seen tocompete with the authority of one’s own reason and experience. Enlightenmentphilosophy tends to stand in tension with established religion, insofar as therelease from self-incurred immaturity in this age, daring to think for oneself,awakening one’s intellectual powers, generally requires opposing the role ofestablished religion in directing thought and action. The faith of theEnlightenment – if one may call it that – is that the process of enlightenment,of becoming progressively self-directed in thought and action through theawakening of one’s intellectual powers, leads ultimately to a better, morefulfilled human existence.This entry describes the maintendencies of Enlightenment thought in the following main sections: (1) The True: Science, Epistemology, andMetaphysics in the Enlightenment; (2) The Good: Political Theory, Ethical Theoryand Religion in the Enlightenment; (3) The Beautiful: Aesthetics in theEnlightenment.CONCLUSION:The Enlightenment had a lasting influence on the world.Enlightenment theories and ideas have been especially significant in politics. Theworlds many consensuses are built on these basic clarified ideas such as: individualfreedom, free and faire elections, The rights of citizen’s people right to takepart in their government, and the government’s responsibility to its citizens. Inthe United States, Enlightenment ideas continued to guide our political system.
The government has a responsibility to uphold rights of citizens and to work toimprove the country. Although different people have different ideas about whatis best for the country, all citizens have right and responsibility tocommunicate their ideas to the government.The Enlightenment completely transformed the way people thenand now think about their religion. It is one of the greatest events in historybecause it gave people the idea to challenge what they have always been taughtis the right way to do things.
It makes them have a mind of their own and not fallsubject to unfair treatment because they think it is just what is supposed to happen.Thelegacy of Enlightenment will not be forgotten. The Enlightenmentwas an exciting period of time. The great thinkers of the time period broughtsome very radical changes into the world.
They based all of their ideals on theprinciple that are men are equal. As a result of the freedoms they wanted,people would be able to do as they pleased and further the sciences, as long asit did not hurt the common good. They led the world into several revolutionsthat brought about great change. The people of the Enlightenment wanted tobreak down the barriers that separated the classes and shift the balance ofpower to the people. They had to make sacrifices as a result of the newprivileges they gained, but it was at a price that everyone was willing to pay.They were willing to sacrifice for the common good, because it would benefitthe majority.
The ideals and ideas the Enlightenment sparked helped to shapethe American society of today.