The Enlightenment of 18th Century Thinkers and Their Influence on Our Understanding of Modernity

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The Enlightenment of the eighteenth century was an intellectual movement and was seen to have different definitions created by a range of philosophes during and after the enlightenment period. These philosophers included Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Francis Bacon, Marquis de Condorcet, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Rene Descartes. Some believed that the enlightenment somewhat defined what we now call modernity and consider to be human. Immanuel Kant quoted in his famous 1784 essay, the “Enlightenment is mankind’s exit from its self-incurred immaturity.” Kant, I (1784) pp. 49-79. He believed that having the nerve to refer to your own understanding and beliefs is what the motto of the enlightenment really was. His quote implied that we should all ‘Dare to Think’ for ourselves but in order to do that we must break away from our self-produced immaturity. The ‘inability to make use of one’s understanding without the guidance of another’ was considered to be the definition of immaturity to Kant, which is why he believed we should stop relying on others and accomplish things for ourselves. In the 18th century, Europe’s feudal order was controlled by an absolute monarch. There was no mobility between classes and the birth of an individual determined the life they were to live. During the Enlightenment it was believed that this feudal order was ordained by God and therefore a natural order of the world which has influenced the shaping of modernity. For the people today, reason is the capacity humans have to make sense of things. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 8: 3, 271 — 295. In the 18th century, philosophes either had a rationalist view, where they believe everything happens for a reason, or an empiricist view, where they believe that everyone was born as blank slates when it came to reasoning. An example of a rationalist would be Rene Descartes. Descartes believed “our senses sometimes deceive us” and our interpretations may not really be what they think they...
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