Difference between revisions of "Enlightenment"

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The '''Enlightenment''' was an 18th-century movement in European (and American) [[philosophy]] and intellectual life generally, that emphasized the power or reason and science to understand and reform the world. Some classifications also include 17th-century philosophy, usually called the [[Age of Reason]]. The style it favored is called "classical" (as opposed to the earlier Baroque and the later Romantic styles). The Enlightenment saw major advances in philosophy, the sciences (especially physics, chemistry and mathematics), economics, political theory, geography (especially exploration), and technology (especially the origins of the [[Industrial Revolution]]).
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The so-called "'''Enlightenment'''" was an 18th-century movement in European [[philosophy]] and intellectualism that emphasized the power or reason and science, rather than [[Christianity]], to understand and reform the world. Some classifications also include 17th-century philosophy, usually called the [[Age of Reason]]. The style it favored is called "classical" (as opposed to the earlier Baroque and the later Romantic styles). The Enlightenment claims advances in philosophy, the sciences (especially physics, chemistry and mathematics), economics, political theory, geography (especially exploration), and technology (especially the origins of the [[Industrial Revolution]]), though in fact the greatest achievements in those fields were typically inspired by Christianity.  The crowning political effect of the Enlightenment was the [[French Revolution]], which culminated in the burning of churches and the beheading of accomplished Frenchmen.
  
The Enlightenment advocated reason as the primary basis of authority, downplaying emotion and ecclesiastical authority. As presented by [[Voltaire]], [[Isaac Newton]] was the great hero for his demonstration that rational thought could explain the heavens. Developed in [[France]], England, [[Scotland]], and the German states, it influenced the whole of Europe including [[Russia]] and Scandinavia, as well as the American colonies in the era of the [[American Revolution]].
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The Enlightenment advocated an atheistic form of reason rather than [[faith]] as the primary basis of authority, downplaying emotion and even criticizing ecclesiastical authority. [[Voltaire]] cited [[Isaac Newton]] as a hero of rational thought, but in fact Newton turned to the Bible for daily inspiration and guidance. Developed in [[France]], England, [[Scotland]], and the German states, the Enlightenment influenced the whole of Europe including [[Russia]] and Scandinavia, as well as the American colonies in the era of the [[American Revolution]].
  
 
Politically the Enlightenment was marked by governmental consolidation, nation creation, greater rights for the common people, and a diminution of the influence of authoritarian institutions such as the nobility and the Church. The ideology of [[Republicanism]] led to the [[American Revolution]] and the [[French Revolution]]. By 1800 or so the Enlightenment was replaced by the [[Romantic Era]], with special impact on the arts.
 
Politically the Enlightenment was marked by governmental consolidation, nation creation, greater rights for the common people, and a diminution of the influence of authoritarian institutions such as the nobility and the Church. The ideology of [[Republicanism]] led to the [[American Revolution]] and the [[French Revolution]]. By 1800 or so the Enlightenment was replaced by the [[Romantic Era]], with special impact on the arts.
  
 
==Leaders==
 
==Leaders==
Intellectually the Enlightenment was identified with the "philosophes," who aggressively spread the new gospel of reason. They were a brilliant collection of scientists, philosophers and writers including [[Voltaire]], [[Montesquieu]], [[Holbach]], [[Condorcet]], [[Denis Diderot]], [[Buffon]], [[Turgot]] and [[Jean-Jacques Rousseau]] in France; [[David Hume]], [[Adam Smith]] and several others in Scotland; [[John Locke]], [[Edward Gibbon]], [[Samuel Johnson]] and [[Jeremy Bentham]] in England; and [[Johann Herder]], [[Gotthold Lessing]] and [[ Immanuel Kant]] in Prussia. In America the leading Enlightenment thinkers were Rev. [[Jonathan Edwards]], [[Benjamin Franklin]], [[Thomas Jefferson]], [[James Madison]] and [[Alexander Hamilton]].
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Intellectually the Enlightenment was identified with the "philosophes," who aggressively spread the new gospel of reason. They were a brilliant collection of scientists, philosophers and writers including [[Voltaire]], [[Montesquieu]], [[Holbach]], [[Condorcet]], [[Denis Diderot]], [[Buffon]], [[Turgot]] and [[Jean-Jacques Rousseau]] in France; [[David Hume]], [[Adam Smith]] and several others in Scotland; [[John Locke]], [[Edward Gibbon]], [[Samuel Johnson]] and [[Jeremy Bentham]] in England; and [[Johann Herder]], [[Gotthold Lessing]] and [[ Immanuel Kant]] in Prussia. The influence of the Enlightenment in America was less than in Europe, though supporters of the French Revolution such as [[Thomas Jefferson]] could be cited as followers.
  
Philosophes were endorsed by "enlightened despots"—rulers who tried to impose reform by authoritarian means, including [[Joseph II]] of the Holy Roman Empire (Austria), [[Frederick II]] of Prussia, [[Catherine II]] of Russia, and [[Charles III]] of Spain.  
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Philosophers were endorsed by "enlightened despots"—rulers who tried to impose reform by authoritarian means, including [[Joseph II]] of the Holy Roman Empire (Austria), [[Frederick II]] of Prussia, [[Catherine II]] of Russia, and [[Charles III]] of Spain.  
  
 
==Science==
 
==Science==

Revision as of 17:55, 2 July 2009

The so-called "Enlightenment" was an 18th-century movement in European philosophy and intellectualism that emphasized the power or reason and science, rather than Christianity, to understand and reform the world. Some classifications also include 17th-century philosophy, usually called the Age of Reason. The style it favored is called "classical" (as opposed to the earlier Baroque and the later Romantic styles). The Enlightenment claims advances in philosophy, the sciences (especially physics, chemistry and mathematics), economics, political theory, geography (especially exploration), and technology (especially the origins of the Industrial Revolution), though in fact the greatest achievements in those fields were typically inspired by Christianity. The crowning political effect of the Enlightenment was the French Revolution, which culminated in the burning of churches and the beheading of accomplished Frenchmen.

The Enlightenment advocated an atheistic form of reason rather than faith as the primary basis of authority, downplaying emotion and even criticizing ecclesiastical authority. Voltaire cited Isaac Newton as a hero of rational thought, but in fact Newton turned to the Bible for daily inspiration and guidance. Developed in France, England, Scotland, and the German states, the Enlightenment influenced the whole of Europe including Russia and Scandinavia, as well as the American colonies in the era of the American Revolution.

Politically the Enlightenment was marked by governmental consolidation, nation creation, greater rights for the common people, and a diminution of the influence of authoritarian institutions such as the nobility and the Church. The ideology of Republicanism led to the American Revolution and the French Revolution. By 1800 or so the Enlightenment was replaced by the Romantic Era, with special impact on the arts.

Leaders

Intellectually the Enlightenment was identified with the "philosophes," who aggressively spread the new gospel of reason. They were a brilliant collection of scientists, philosophers and writers including Voltaire, Montesquieu, Holbach, Condorcet, Denis Diderot, Buffon, Turgot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in France; David Hume, Adam Smith and several others in Scotland; John Locke, Edward Gibbon, Samuel Johnson and Jeremy Bentham in England; and Johann Herder, Gotthold Lessing and Immanuel Kant in Prussia. The influence of the Enlightenment in America was less than in Europe, though supporters of the French Revolution such as Thomas Jefferson could be cited as followers.

Philosophers were endorsed by "enlightened despots"—rulers who tried to impose reform by authoritarian means, including Joseph II of the Holy Roman Empire (Austria), Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, and Charles III of Spain.

Science

Advances in science had led to principles and laws that were knowable and unchanging as described within a naturalistic framework. This idea of knowledge that could be observed apart from a direct explanation dealing with God led to a change in philosophical ideals, where man could shape and determine his own destiny including areas outside of science such as social and political realities. In a sense mans' view of his own ability to bring about change and a trust in himself to determine what that change needed to be crystallized in the thought process of the times among the philosophical elite.

Writers during the Enlightenment assumed that science, beginning in the late 1600s with Isaac Newton, could be duplicated in other fields through a systematic and logical approach.

Deism and Pietism

Some of the Enlightenment leaders of the period challenged traditional Christianity as they adopted God in a deist form that saw his role as the clockmaker, not the personal guide. While much of the population of the times remained Christian in terms of performing traditional rituals, deism took root in England, France, and the American colonies.[1]

Pietism was a new and powerful religious movement that emerged among Lutheran and Reformed circles, especially in Germany. It stressed a vision of individual rebirth as opposed to ritual and theology, with stress on individual moral behavior. Pietism promoted revivals and missionary activism to convert the world to Christ. American versions of pietism include the revivals of the First Great Awakening and was especially manifest in the rapid growth of Baptist and Methodist churches.[2]

Politics

Enlightenment thought, especially the version known as Republicanism provided the intellectual foundations of the American Revolution. Thus Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1776) borrowed human rights themes first developed a century before by John Locke.

Ending

There is no formal time period for when the Enlightenment ended just as there is no specific time for when it began. Politically the French Revolution of the 1790s can be seens as an end point. Culturally, the rise of Romanticism, with its quest for the unknown future, displaced classical Enlightenment forms, especially in music, painting, literature and philosophy, after 1810. In a deeper sense, the ideas and ways of thought of The Enlightenment, especially regarding the value of science and systematic inquiry, have become a permanent part of the modern world. Conservative economic policy strongly rooted in the ideas of Adam Smith.

References

  1. S. J. Barnett, The Enlightenment and Religion. The Myths of Modernity (2003) argues that Christianity continued to flourish at the grass roots level.
  2. William G. McLaughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (1967)

Further reading

  • Becker, Carl L. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers. 1932.
  • Buchan, James. Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Burns, William. Science in the Enlightenment: An Encyclopedia (2003) 353pp
  • Cassirer, Ernst. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. 1955. a highly influential study by a neoKantian philosopher excerpt and text search
  • Chisick, Harvey. Historical Dictionary of the Enlightenment. 2005. 512 pp
  • Delon, Michel. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment (2001) 1480pp
  • Fitzpatrick, Martin et al., eds. The Enlightenment World. (2004). 714pp; 39 essays by scholars online edition
  • Gay, Peter. The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966, 2nd ed. 1995), 952 pp; excerpt and text search vol 1; The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom, (1969 2nd ed. 1995), a highly influential study excerpt and text search vol 2;
  • Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (1994) 338 pp online edition
  • Hazard, Paul. European thought in the eighteenth century: From Montesquieu to Lessing (1965)
  • Himmelfarb, Gertrude. The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. 2004. 272 pp. by a leading conservative scholar
  • Imhof, Ulrich. The Enlightenment. 1994. 310 pp.
  • Kors, Alan Charles. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment (4 vol. 1990; 2nd ed. 2003), 1984pp excerpt and text search; also complete text online at www.oxfordreference.com by a leading conservative scholar
  • May, Henry F. The Enlightenment in America. 1976. 419 pp.
  • Outram, Dorinda. The Enlightenment(1995) 157pp excerpt and text search
  • Porter, Roy. The Enlightenment (2nd ed. 2001) excerpt and text search
  • Porter, Roy. The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. 2000. 608 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Reid-Maroney, Nina. Philadelphia's Enlightenment, 1740-1800: Kingdom of Christ, Empire of Reason. 2001. 199 pp.
  • Reill, Peter Hanns, and Wilson, Ellen Judy. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. (2nd ed. 2004). 670 pp.
  • Staloff, Darren. Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding. 2005. 419 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Till, Nicholas. Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue, and Beauty in Mozart's Operas. 1993. 384 pp.
  • Yolton, John W. et al. The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment. 1992. 581 pp.

Primary sources