• Rising Literacy Rates: 30-70% for males in urban European
areas; 30-50% for rural males; 20-50% for females
• Print culture: books, newspapers, journals, subscription
series, lending libraries
• Social Culture: salons, coffee houses and cafes, secret
• Emergence of public opinion, and censorship
• Middle-class movement: Rising numbers of urbanites,
professionals, businessmen; critical of traditional
• Scientific Revolution and Spinoza’s monistic mechanism
• Reformation, Wars of Religion
• Affordable: newspapers and broadsheets accessible to
lower income readers; subscription-based book series;
• Popularization of Scientific Revolution (Bernard de
Fontenelle, Plurality of Worlds; Voltaire), Engineering
• International Movement: Holland, England, France,
Scotland, Americas, German-speaking territories, Russia
• Political Influence: "Enlightened Despots" Frederick the
Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia, Charles
III of Spain, Joseph II of Austria, etc.
"we currently see 'Enlightenment' as the growth of a non-
theocentric 'philosophy' of civil society, with political
economy and a history of society and l'esprit humain among
its outgrowths." -- JGA Pocock on John Robertson
•Often hostile to religion, at least organized religion
•Rationality, philosophical logic, and scientific process
applied to Social issues.
•Argumentation: Disagreement on many fundamental issues
•Progress through education; progress linear
•Equality and Protection of Rights
J. G. A. POCOCK, HISTORIOGRAPHY
AND ENLIGHTENMENT (2008)
"In studying the intellectual history of the late 17th
century and the 18th, we encounter a variety of
statements made, and assumptions proposed, to
which the term 'Enlightenment' may usefully be
applied, but the meanings of the term shift as we
apply it. The things are connected, but not
continuous; they cannot be reduced to a single
narrative; and we find ourselves using the word
“Enlightenment” in a family of ways and talking
about a family of phenomena, resembling and
related to one another in a variety of ways that
permit of various generalizations about them."
• Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
• Leviathan: "The natural state of
men, before they were joined in
society, was a war, and not simply,
but a war of all against all."
• State of Nature: "the life of man,
solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and
• state exists as expression of social
contract to raise our level of
discipline and accomplishment.
• Authoritarian commonwealth.
• Sovereignty rests with monarch
• Loss of rights preferable to loss of
• John Locke (1632-1704)
• tabula rasa: born a blank slate
• moral and intellectual
development a function of
• Equality and Progress
• Christianity a rational moral
system subordinating self-regard
• people enter into the social
contract to preserve, not
surrender, their social rights.
• Sovereignty rests with citizenry
• Mutual Obligations: monarch
must preserve rights of citizens,
or citizens can and should replace
• Writer in multiple genres: novels, pamphlets, non-
– Literary criticism
– Scientific Popularizer, esp. Newton
• Rich and intelligent woman, Émilie du Châtelet, who
supported him and participated in writing projects
• Candide: anti-war, against religious intolerance, argues
against Locke/Spinoza idea that human nature
fundamentally good and world a beneficent place.
– Organized Church: "l'infame"
Relgion and Anti-Religion
• Voltaire argued for religious toleration, and was an architect of deism,
including the idea of Jesus as "good fellow".
• God as "Divine Watchmaker" (following Spinoza) and Final Arbiter
• Freemasons spread deism as practice, social change through
enlightenment. Members included Voltaire, Diderot, Duke of Orleans,
Frederick the Great, W.A. Mozart, George Washington, Benjamin
Franklin, Simon Bolivar.
• Some argued that Christianity, stripped of superstition and institutional
power, an acceptable Enlightenment morality.
• Denis Diderot highly critical of Christianity, moving from deism to
atheism -- the first true atheist in the Western tradition. Argued that
belief in God neither required for understanding nor beneficial for
• David Hume argued that Miracles cannot ever be accepted as true.
• Immanuel Kant argued for rational basis of morality, the Categorical
Imperative to treat individuals as ends in themselves rather than means
to an end.
Religion and Historiography
•"Scepticism might end either in reducing
Christ to a being describable in human
terms, or in an irreducible claim to have
met him and been reborn in the encounter.
This is how Enlightenment left Protestant
Christianity polarized between two
extremes—the one unitarian and the other
evangelical—a polarization that persists in
the politics of the United States of
America." - JGA Pocock
Charles de Secondat,
baron de Montesquieu
• 1721 Persian Letters a critique of French society in the voice of
Turkish visitors, particularly Church and Monarchy.
• 1748 The Spirit of the Laws attempted to apply scientific method
to social relationships, categorizing states as "republics, suitable
for small states and based on citizen involvement; monarchy,
appropriate for middle-sized states and grounded in the ruling
class's adherence to law; and despotism, apt for large empires and
dependent on fear to inspire obedience." (Spielvogel 369)
• Argues that systems of government must be adapted to cultural
and historical environment, but that ideal form would include
division of powers between executive, legislative and judicial
• Monarchist, but believed in moderation of power, shared
or Classified Dictionary of the
Sciences, Arts and Trades
• Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert. 17 volumes of text,
including 60,000 articles; 11 volumes of illustrations published
between 1751 and 1772. Over 100 authors.
• Practical knowledge, applied science and technology: catalog of
"modern" life. Deliberate attempt to change society by intellectual
• Highly critical of society and government; highly annoying to the
French government, "but contributors to the Encyclopedia learned to
avoid censure by hiding controversial ideas in obscure articles or by
cloaking them with irony." (KOT-B 401).
• Sold by subscription, like a journal; Benjamin Franklin and Thomas
Jefferson both readers.
• Reduction in price for later editions made it accessible to wider range
of society: "doctors, clergymen, teachers, lawyers and even military
officers." (Spielvogel 370)
• Cesare Beccaria
– punishment should be a deterrent to crime
– torture - punishment before judgement - not legitimate
– execution, especially public execution, both unsuccessful deterrent
and damaging to public morals
• Nicholas, Marquis de Condorcet
– "nature has set no term to the perfection of human faculties; that
the perfectibility of man is truly indefinite; and that the progress of
this perfectibility, from now onwards independent of any power that
might wish to halt it, has no other limit than the duration of the
globe upon which nature has cast us. This progress will doubtless
vary in speed, but it will never be reversed."
– Ironically, written while he was fleeing the Revolutionary Terror,
prior to his suicide in 1794.
• Physiocrats, (François Quesnay and Pierre Dupont de
Nemours, etc.) defined concept of supply and demand
and benefit of individual self-interest.
• laissez-faire (to let alone) instead of mercantilism.
• Adam Smith, On the Wealth of Nations
– argued for economic freedom, clear rejection of mercantilism and
– assumes boundless wealth of nature, "limitless" natural resources.
– creation of wealth through economic activity, not measured by specie
– expanding economy based on pursuit of enlightened self-interest on
the part of all individuals, specialization to maximize benefit,
"Invisible Hand" of collective decisions
– State should establish social and physical infrastructure: Army/Police,
Judiciary and Public Works.
• Balance between sentiment and reason necessary, foreshadowing the
– Not a feminist, but a believer in sentiment as a necessary balance
to rationality, childhood stage through which all pass, and that
naturally irrational women provide critical emotional foundation to
civilization. This made him immensely popular among women.
– great advocate of breast feeding, leading to a sharp decline in the
use of wet-nurses, particularly among upper and middle classes.
• Radical democrat: majoritarian
– The Social Contract (1762) argued that the general will of society
was more important than the individual; freedom came from
obedience to law
– ideal community should be one which worked together to increase
common good; the highest value was virtue.
• Émile (1762): unforced pedagogy, learning from nature and action.
Religious faith, which led him to split with Encyclopedists
• Background Image: "China Trade Painting"
from the Waikoloa Hilton collection
• Kagan, Ozment, Turner: Western
Civilization: Brief Edition
• Spielvogel, Western Civilization