The Age Of Enlightenment

Powerful Essays
The Enlightenment

“Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!”
-Immanuel Kant,
‘What Is Enlightenment?’ (1784)

The Age of Enlightenment is the period in the history of Western thought and culture that spanned from the mid-seventeenth century to the eighteenth century. It is commonly characterized by the dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics that swept away the medieval world-view and ushered in our modern western world. The driving force behind the Enlightenment was a comparatively small group of writers and thinkers from Europe and North America who became known as the ‘philosophes.’ In its early phase, commonly known as the Scientific Revolution, new scientists believed that rational, empirical observation
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Should this ruler fail at that task Hobbes called for a transfer of allegiance of the people. As an atheist, Hobbes argued that religion was a useful propaganda machine as it was very capable of reminding the ignorant masses of their roles and duties. He was of the opinion that human life was, by nature, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,’ and was doubtful about the prospects for progress in a world so short on ethics. As a result, Hobbes represented the pessimistic side of the Enlightenment, who viewed progress as the result of the suppression on man’s instincts, rather than the freedom granted to those instincts. Next, diametrically opposed to the pessimistic Hobbes was John Locke. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government, Locke presented his idea that man’s mind is a “table rasa,” or blank slate. His optimistic belief was that every human is inherently good, and that they can all improve through conscious effort. Locke argued that human nature was mutable, and that knowledge was gained through accumulated experience, rather than the accessing of some outside truth. He also believed in the necessity of …show more content…
Gradually, complaints in the salons and coffee shops changed from idle whining into constructive political thought. They began to discuss substantive political and social philosophies of the day, and before long the French Enlightenment was born. From here, many highly influential political thinkers emerged during the Enlightenment. One of those was Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède and de Montesquieu. He was a political philosopher famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions around the world. Through his education and travels he became a sharp social commentator and thinker who gained the respect of his fellow philosophers with his masterwork The Spirit of Laws, which went on to have a major influence on English and American government. It was also during this time that the philosophes were denouncing Christianity with their nontraditional ways of thinking. They attacked the Church’s traditional idea of the “chain of being,” which implied a natural hierarchy of existence, and believed in a universe that was set in autonomous motion and never tampered with again. The philosophes also raised objections against the decadent lifestyles of leading Church representatives, as well as the Church’s persistence in

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