Age of Reason
Mrs. Stephanie Holland
The Age of Reason is a period during
the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries when many individuals
refused to acknowledge the authority
of the Scripture and instead exalted
their own reason to a place of extreme
• The belief that sees reason as the only
sure source of knowledge and
progress is rationalism.
• Philosophes – challenged the values
of society, sought to conform society
to their ideas, and encouraged
• The philosophies were primarily spread
through Encyclopedie. (Multi-volume
books with articles on most any subject.)
They were opposed by the Roman
Catholic Church and the French
government because they felt it
undermined their authority.
• The Eighteenth century intellectual
movement is known as Enlightenment. A
strong emphasis was put on the power of
• Modern concepts of chemistry came
from the medieval practices of mixing
elixirs and potions.
• 1. Recognizing the inadequacy of
existing knowledge to explain a given
• 2. Gathering observations in an attempt
to find possible answers.
• 3. Seeking to find a pattern in the
observations upon which to base
conclusions or theories.
• 4. Choosing the most appropriate
conclusion to explain the
• 5. Verifying the derived conclusion by
further observations and
• Bacon – Novum Organum .
Questioned existing knowledgeAdvocated careful observation and
tentative conclusions, then gathering
information to verify results.
• Copernicus – Questioned the theory
that the universe is “earth-centered”.
• Used telescope and astrolabe to study
the stars and planets. Concluded that
the universe is sun centered –
• The Roman Catholic Church supported
the geocentric theory and branded
those who accepted the heliocentric
theory as heretics.
• Descartes – Relied on reason and
methods of mathematics. Start simple
and through logic move to another
more complex truth. “I
doubt, therefore I think; I
think, therefore I am.” (Deductive
• Galileo – Best-known astronomer.
Improved the telescope. Suggested
the use of the pendulum to measure
• Harvey – Father of Experimental
Biology-carefully studied the heart
and blood circulation. Concluded that
the heart alone pumps blood.
• Jenner – Developed the smallpox
• Lavoisier – Father of Modern
• Leeuwenhoek – Improved the
microscope and discovered the
existence of microbes and bacteria.
• Mercator – devised the flat map.
• Paracelsus – studied disease and
suggested that chemicals could be
used to treat it.
• Isaac Newton – Invention of the
reflecting telescope, laws of gravity
and wrote Principia
• Priestley – Discovered the chemical
substances of ammonia, oxygen and
• Boyle – found that increasing
pressure on a gas reduces its volume
and decreasing the pressure
expanded its volume.
Literature of the Age of Reason was characterized by
an imitation of classical works of Greece and Rome.
• The Arts:
• Defoe – Robinson Crusoe
• Gibbon – Decline and fall of the
• Pope – “To err is human, to forgive is
• Moliere – French comedies
• Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
• Rousseau – The Social Contract.
Maintained that government should
be built upon and carry out the
“general will” of the people. (majority
Philosophies of the Enlightenment
• Montesquieu – defended natural
rights and the idea that men could
change their government. Believed
that the liberty of the English was due
to a separation of the three powers –
legislative, executive and judicial.
• Impacted the framers of the United
• Voltaire – Leading figure of
Enlightenment. Outspoken critic of
abuses in society such as religious and
political intolerance. Hated organized
religion. Advocated religion ruled by
reason. Championed freedom of the
• Diderot – edited Encyclopedie and
wrote several hundred articles for
• Rousseau – Favored emotion and
sentiment above reason. Had many
ideas about the education of our
children. Father of Romanticism.
Government should carry out the
“general will” of the people.
• Rembrandt – A Dutch painter known
for his chiaroscuro effect (contrasting
light and dark)
• El Greco – known for creating figures
with elongated bodies and limbs.
• Monteverdi – Leading composer of
baroque music, most famous for
• Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley were
• Polyphony – term applied to music
with several intertwined melody lines.
• Rococo style - delicate and feminine
• Baroque –
Dramatic, turbulent, sensual
• Neoclassical – The orderly, formal and
balanced approach of Enlightenment.
• Deists – saw God as the Creator who
no longer intervened in human
• Deism was NOT associated with the
spiritual awakening of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries.
• Viewed the universe as a machine
• Built on human wisdom – not the
• Pietism – word originated as a derogatory
term for those who studied the Bible.
• Spencer – outlined failures of the church
and called for spiritual renewal.
• Francke – trained Pietist pastors and
missionaries. Established an
orphanage, schools and a Bible printing
organization. His efforts established
mission work in India and America.
• Zinzendorf – Became leader of the
• Empiricism - philosophy that “all
knowledge comes through experience.”
• Pantheism – philosophy that everything
is a part of one great substance called
• The Great Awakening – eighteenthcentury American revival.
• Wesley’s work inspired spiritual revival
and broke the apathetic attitude among
profession Christians. Revivals helped
improve the moral condition and restrain
social upheaval. Stimulated interest in
Christian education and led to the
establishment of the first Sunday Schools.
Encouraged the production of good
Christian literature and music.