Age of Enlightenment

Age of Enlightenment

What was the age of enlightenment?

A change or a shift in thinking occurred in the middle of the eighteenth century. This was popularly known as the Age of Enlightenment.

In 1685-1815, philosophy, European politics, communications and science were radically oriented. It was part of a movement known by its participants as the Age of Reason or the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers in France and Britain and across Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the idea that humanity could be enhanced through rational change.

The Enlightenment produced a wide range of books, inventions, essay, laws, wars, scientific discoveries and revolutions. French and American revolutions were inspired directly by Enlightenment ideas and marked the beginning of its influence and the beginning of its declining.

The Age of Enlightenment ultimately paved way to Romanticism in the 19th century.

The Early age of Enlightenment

During the 17th century, early enlightenment period has significant precursors and they included Frenchman Renee Descartes, Thomas Horbes and Francis Bacon. Natural and significant philosophers of the scientific revolution included Kepler, Leibniz and Galileo. The roots of the revolution can be traced back to 1680’s England. Within a span of three years, the book, Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton was published. John Locke also published his ‘’ Essay Concerning Human Understanding’’ (1689).  The two works offered a mathematical, philosophical and scientific toolkit for major Age of Enlightenment’s advances.

According to Locke, argued that human nature was mutable and that knowledge was gained through accumulated experience as opposed to accessing outside truth. Newton’s optical and Calculus theories offered a powerful enlightenment metaphors for measured illumination and change.

It is essential to note that there was no unified and single Enlightenment. It consisted of the Scottish, English, Swiss, American, French and Scottish Enlightenment. Individual thinkers during the age of Reason had different approached. Locke differed from Thomas Jefferson from Frederick the Great and Hume, Rousseau from Voltaire.

High Enlightenment period

Based on French philosophes publications and dialogues (Montesquieu, Diderot, Buffon, and Voltaire), the high Enlightenment can be best summed up in one historian’s summary of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary: a chaos of clear ideas. Among the idea is that everything across the globe could be catalogued and demystified. Signature publication at the time was during Encyclopedia in 1751-77, which brought about leading authors to produce a compilation of human knowledge.

Fredrick the Great and other enlightenment despots unified modernized and rationalized Prussia in brutal multiyear wars with Austria. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson on the other hands framed American Revolution in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 in terms of Locke’s essays.

The High enlightenment was also an anti-religious and a religious innovation. As Christians looked for reposition of their faith along deists and rational lines, materialists focused on the universe to determine their course without the intervention of God. Bavarian Illuminati, Freemasons and Secret societies also flourished offering a few women and European men new fellowship modes, mutual assistance and esoteric ritual. Newspapers, coffeehouses and literary salons also emerged as new venues for ideas started to circulate.

Late age of Enlightenment and beyond

High Enlightenment, 1789 French Revolution, was the culmination of late Enlightenment and high Enlightenment vision. The period was characterized with throwing out of old authorities to redesign the society along rational lines. It also devolved into a bloody terror that revealed the limits of its ideas. This led to the rise of Napoleon a year later.

The goal of late Enlightenment egalitarianism attracted the admiration of Mary Wollstonecraft, a popular feminist by then. It also inspired Haitian War of Independence as well as Radical Racial inclusivism of Paraguay’s first post-independence state.

Rationality during the age of reason paved way to the Wildness of Romanticism. However, during the 19th century, Classicism and Liberalism occurred.  Modernism also occurred in the 20th century.  All these, according to philosophers and politicians owe a debt to the thinkers of the age of Enlightenment.  The thinkers of Enlightenment shed light of reason and science across the globe thus, questioning traditional ways of doing things and traditional ideas.

Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment age gave the world a new way of seeing things.

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