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The Enlightenment

Uploaded by Admin on Jan 22, 1999

The Enlightenment is a name given by historians to an intellectual movement that was predominant in the Western world during the 18th century. Strongly influenced by the rise of modern science and by the aftermath of the long religious conflict that followed the Reformation, the thinkers of the Enlightenment (called philosophes in France) were committed to secular views based on reason or human understanding only, which they hoped would provide a basis for beneficial changes affecting every area of life and thought. The more extreme and radical philosophes-Denis Diderot, Claude Adrien Helvetius, Baron d'Holbach, the Marquis de Condorcet, and Julien Offroy de La Mettrie (1709-51)--advocated a philosophical rationalism deriving its methods from science and natural philosophy that would replace religion as the means of knowing nature and destiny of humanity; these men were materialists, pantheists, or atheists. Other enlightened thinkers, such as Pierre Bayle, Voltaire, David Hume, Jean Le Rond D'alembert, and Immanuel Kant, opposed fanaticism, but were either agnostic or left room for some kind of religious faith. All of the philosophes saw themselves as continuing the work of the great 17th century pioneers-Francis Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Leibnitz, Isaac Newton, and John Locke-who had developed fruitful methods of rational and empirical inquiry and had demonstrated the possibility of a world remade by the application of knowledge for human benefit. The philosophes believed that science could reveal nature as it truly is and show how it could be controlled and manipulated. This belief provided an incentive to extend scientific methods into every field of inquiry, thus laying the groundwork for the development of the modern social sciences. The enlightened understanding of human nature was one that emphasized the right to self-expression and human fulfillment, the right to think freely and express one's views publicly without censorship or fear of repression. Voltaire admired the freedom he found in England and fostered the spread of English ideas on the Continent. He and his followers opposed the intolerance of the established Christian churches of their day, as well as the European governments that controlled and suppressed dissenting opinions. For example, the social disease which Pangloss caught from Paquette was traced to a "very learned Franciscan" and later to a Jesuit. Also, Candide reminisces that his passion for Cunegonde first developed at a Mass. More conservative enlightened thinkers, concerned primarily with efficiency and administrative order, favored the "enlightened despotism" of such monarchs as Emperor Joseph II, Frederick...

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Uploaded by:   Admin

Date:   01/22/1999

Category:   European History

Length:   4 pages (895 words)

Views:   1233

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