The eighteenth-century Enlightenment was a movement of intellectuals who were greatly impressed with the achievements of the Scientific Revolution. One of the favorite words of these intellectuals was reason, by which they meant the application of the scientific method to the understanding of all life. They believed that institutions and all systems of thought were subject to the rational, scientific way of thinking if people would only free themselves from past, worthless traditions, especially religious ones.
Even though Enlightenment started in the eighteenth century, it was a result of intellectual ideas from the seventeenth century, especially those of two Englishmen, Issac Newton and John Locke. The intellectuals of he Enlightenment became convinced that the natural laws that governed politics, economics, and religions. John Lockefs theory of knowledge also made a great impact on eighteenth-century intellectuals. He believed human learn from reason, not from faith. Lockefs ideas suggested that people were molded by their environment, by the experiences that they received through their senses from their surrounding world. By changing the environment and subjecting people to the right influences, people could be changed and a new society created. Intellectuals came to assume that through a use of reason, an unending progress would be possible--- progress in knowledge, in technological achievements, and even in moral values.
The intellectuals of the Enlightenment were known by the French term philosophe. The Enlightenment was a truly international movement, but most of the leaders of the Enlightenment were French. The French writer and philosopher Voltaire was considered one of the central figures of the Age of Enlightenments. Voltaire was especially known for his criticism of Christianity. He championed deism, a system of thought that denies the interference of he Creator with the laws of the universe. A French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot...
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