An introduction to the period of enlightenment

The enthusiasm for the scientific study of humanity in the period incorporates a tension or paradox concerning the place of humanity in the cosmos, as the cosmos is re-conceived in the context of Enlightenment philosophy and science. If our evidence for the truth of propositions about extra-mental material reality is always restricted to mental content, content before the mind, how can we ever be certain that the extra-mental reality is not other than we represent it as being?

Put in the terms Kant defines, the problem is: Rationalists, who lived primarily in continental Europe, argued that senses were untrustworthy and knowledge came from the mind, through conceiving of or intuiting ideas, according to Loyola University New Orleans.

The Age of Enlightenment, an introduction

However, the liberal conception of the government as properly protecting economic freedom of citizens and private property comes into conflict in the Enlightenment with the value of democracy.

Hobbes also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: Even as he draws strict limits to rational knowledge, he attempts to defend reason as a faculty of knowledge, as playing a necessary role in natural science, in the face of skeptical challenges that reason faces in the period.

Though Kant presents the moral principle as a principle of practical reason, his ethics also disagrees significantly with rationalist ethics in the period.


These limits are arguably vividly illustrated by the course of the French Revolution. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population.

Empirical accounts of moral virtue in the period are distinguished, both by grounding moral virtue on an empirical study of human nature, and by grounding cognition of moral duties and moral motivation in human sensibility, rather than in reason.

What Was the Enlightenment?

Learn More in these related Britannica articles: As Rousseau describes it, the capacity for individual self-determination puts us in a problematic relation to our natural desires and inclinations and to the realm of nature generally, insofar as that realm is constituted by mechanistic causation.

The emergence of new sciences is aided by the development of new scientific tools, such as models for probabilistic reasoning, a kind of reasoning that gains new respect and application in the period. The problem of giving a satisfying account of moral motivation is a difficult one for empiricist moral philosophers in the Enlightenment.

These men of letters constituted a sort of "substitute aristocracy that was both all-powerful and without real power". Scientific academies and societies grew out of the Scientific Revolution as the creators of scientific knowledge in contrast to the scholasticism of the university. The concepts of liberty, reason and equality influenced early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft [mother of Mary Shelley, author of "Frankenstein"], American abolitionist Frederick Douglass and other seminal leaders.

Some poetry became infused with scientific metaphor and imagery, while other poems were written directly about scientific topics. Criticism of this alleged derivation gives rise to the general question of how formal principles of logic can possibly serve to ground substantive knowledge of reality.

Here too the question of the limits of reason is one of the main philosophical legacies of the period. I have no need to be taught artificial forms of worship; the dictates of nature are sufficient.

Introduction to the Enlightenment

Is it not a natural consequence of self-love to honor those who protect us, and to love such as do us good? However, skepticism is not merely a methodological tool in the hands of Enlightenment thinkers.

He provides specific analysis of how climate, fertility of the soil, population size, et cetera, affect legislation. This is embodied in the sovereignty of the general willthe moral and collective legislative body constituted by citizens.

Age of Enlightenment

But it deserves separate mention, because of its grounding in natural human sentiments, rather than in reason or in metaphysical or natural scientific problems of cosmology.

Also, the violent religious wars that bloody Europe in the early modern period motivate the development of secular, this-worldly ethics, insofar as they indicate the failure of religious doctrines concerning God and the afterlife to establish a stable foundation for ethics.

Constitution in his Federalist For Enlightenment thinkers themselves, however, the Enlightenment is not an historical period, but a process of social, psychological or spiritual development, unbound to time or place.

Aug 29,  · The Enlightenment ultimately gave way to 19th-century Romanticism. The Early Enlightenment: The Enlightenment’s important 17th-century precursors included the Englishmen Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, the Frenchman Renee Descartes and the key natural philosophers of the Scientific Revolution, including Galileo, Kepler and Leibniz.

There is little consensus on the precise beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, though the beginning of the 18th century () or the middle of the 17th century () are often used as epochs.

French historians usually place the period, called the Siècle des Lumières ("Century of Enlightenments"), between andfrom the beginning.

The Age of Enlightenment was a period in early modern history when western societies, led by its intellectuals, made a marked shift from religion based authority to one of scientific reason. - In a time when faith and hard labor kept the majority of society alive, the introduction of reason by the Enlightenment was initially perceived as a.

The Enlightenment was the era of history which really produced the modern, secular age, and which set the scene for the good and bad to come. Neo-classicism was a child of the Age of Reason (the Enlightenment), when philosophers believed that we would be able to control our destinies by learning from and following the laws of nature (the United States was founded on Enlightenment philosophy).

Scientific inquiry attracted more attention.

An introduction to the period of enlightenment
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