THE ENLIGHTENMENT• The enlightenment was an intellectual movement from the 1700s, in which people began to focus their attention to nature and the perceived rules that applied to it.• For the thinkers of the enlightenment every event has a cause and an effect.• For them, man was a part of the natural world, and great importance was given to the idea of ‘natural laws’.
• These natural laws referred not only to what we commonly call nature (the outdoors, animals, plants, minerals), but also to human behavior itself.• As humans are seen as a part of the natural world, all of their social creations (economics, ideas, government, rules, etc) have a ‘nature’ in itself.
• The enlightened believed that objects in nature were governed by laws, which could be understood and predicted by men.• The discoveries of, for examples, Newton’s laws of physics, gave impulse to the desire of finding rules and systems in all aspects of nature.
Newton’s laws• First Law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.• Second law: Force=Mass X acceleration• Third law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear.
• This idea of ‘rules of nature’ gives birth to modern natural sciences.• For many of the enlightened scientists, God had created the world and made rules for it.• Living in harmony and achieving progress was seen as a byproduct of understanding these laws.
RATIONALISM• Is an idea of the enlightenment.• It states that truth can only be achieved through reason.• That is why we call the age of the enlightenment as the ‘Age of Reason’.• Even for those more inclined toward religion, science and reason became the ways to understand God’s plan, and thus be closer to him.
• This time also saw a more tolerant view of religious ideas, including a more tolerant (if not favored or encouraged) take on atheism.• Great thinkers, like Baruch Spinoza, forwarded the idea of intellectual tolerance.
• The thinkers of the enlightenment were called the ‘philosophes’.• This is the French word for philosopher.• They were philosophers, but also scientists, social critics, mathematicians, etc.• The philosophes used the printing press effectively, keeping touch with each other and publishing books, notably, the encyclopedia.
• The Encyclopedia, the most important and popular work of its time, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean D’alembert, became a ‘handbook’ of the enlightenment.• This book was a compendium of the scientific, social and political knowledge of its time, but it also criticized the church, government, slave trade, torture, taxes and war.
• French authorities frowned upon this type of critical thinking (as did most of the western rulers) and Diderot and other philosophes were incarcerated.• The ‘damage’ was done, though, and people all through Europe (and eventually the new continent) read and soaked in the ideas of the enlightenment.