An introduction to the history of the age of enlightenment

The Enlightenment was confronted with Counter-Enlightenments, such as Romanticism and Catholic revivals, but politics, society and economics continued their inexorable march down the secular path. Consequently, it still engenders controversy about its character and achievements.

Supposed innate qualities, such as goodness or original sinhad no reality. The idea of society as a social contracthowever, contrasted sharply with the realities of actual societies.

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.

To the extent it was successful, the Enlightenment ended eighteen hundred years of spiritualized thinking. The Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution severely tested the belief that an egalitarian society could govern itself.


The intellectual and political edifice of Christianity, seemingly impregnable in the Middle Agesfell in turn to the assaults made on it by humanismthe Renaissanceand the Protestant Reformation.

The term represents a phase in the intellectual history of Europe, but it also serves to define programs of reform in which influential literati, inspired by a common faith in the possibility of a better world, outlined specific targets for criticism and proposals for action. First, the Enlightenment established new philosophical ideas concerning the grounds of knowledge—epistemology—that is the knowledge was based upon empirical observation and provable hypotheses.

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. Two main questions and, relating to each, two schools of thought can be identified.

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. Amid the turmoil of empire, however, a new concern arose for personal salvationand the way was paved for the triumph of the Christian religion.

The term represents a phase in the intellectual history of Europe, but it also serves to define programs of reform in which influential literati, inspired by a common faith in the possibility… A brief treatment of the Enlightenment follows.

This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. It should be noted that there is a reason why the Enlightenment is as Charles W.

The celebration of abstract reason provoked contrary spirits to begin exploring the world of sensation and emotion in the cultural movement known as Romanticism. Inevitably, the method of reason was applied to religion itself.

A complex phenomenon, the Enlightenment was defined by one central question: The system of thought known as Scholasticismculminating in the work of Thomas Aquinasresurrected reason as a tool of understanding but subordinated it to spiritual revelation and the revealed truths of Christianity.

Unlike other terms applied by historians to describe a phenomenon that they see more clearly than could contemporaries, it was used and cherished by those who believed in the power of mind to liberate and improve.

The Enlightenment: Introduction

Such powerful ideas found expression as reform in England and as revolution in France and America. Western culture shifted decisively towards secular questions and secular answers. The more rarefied the religion of the Deists became, the less it offered those who sought solace or salvation.

Just as scientists rewrote the knowledge of the universe, philosophers sought a new epistemology or ground for social relations. When these modern conditions did not exist, the Enlightenment or something like it did not emerge, simply because there was no need for a new epistemology.

Locke and Jeremy Bentham in England, MontesquieuVoltaireJean-Jacques RousseauDenis Diderotand 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.

Withers asserted that the philosophical revolution had a particular geographic location: What were essentially political slogans, designed to delegitimize the ruling class, became, over time, ideals which would not be forgotten, but it would take time for the Enlightenment to become more than the concepts of speculative philosophers and the cant of aspiring politicians to become a gradually unfolding reality that would impact all people, not just white males with property.1 INTRODUCTION APPROACH AND RATIONALE The Enlightenment is one of over 60 National Center for History in the Schools teaching units that are the fruit of collaborations between history professors and experienced teachers of both United States and World History.

The Age of Enlightenment, an introduction by Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving A Lecture at the Orrery, c.oil on canvas, x cm (Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, England).


The Age of Enlightenment, an introduction

This article is an introduction to a special issue on ‘Religious Toleration in the Age of Enlightenment’. It begins by characterizing the Enlightenment's attitude towards religion as an opposition to bigotry and ecclesiastic authority based on a particular interpretation of the European Wars of Religion.

Enlightenment: Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries in which ideas concerning God, reason, nature, and humanity were synthesized into a worldview that gained wide assent in the West and that instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy, and politics.

The Age of Enlightenment Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving A Lecture at the Orrery, In order to understand the move towards Modernism, it is important to look back at the middle of the eighteenth century, to a time known as the Enlightenment.

Enlightenment. The introduction of the scientific method transformed society by using science and reason rather than political or religious dogma to explain natural phenomena.

An introduction to the history of the age of enlightenment
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