THE AGE OF REASON PART II: THE ENLIGHTENMENT

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1 THE AGE OF REASON PART II: THE ENLIGHTENMENT I BACKGROUND: 1. Refers to an intellectual movement, which stood for rationalist, liberal, humanitarian, and scientific trends of thought. The erosion of religion as the source of authority - secularism - is the hallmark of the enlightenment. 2. France was at the center of The Enlightenment, and its leading thinkers were called Philosophes. They were intellectuals who made science and secularism key points of their beliefs. The Philosophes shared a critical spirit that desired to re-examine the assumptions and institutions of society and expose them to the tests of reason, experience, and utility. By asserting that reason was the key to understanding, they turned away from religious faith. 3. While the Philosophes attacked traditional beliefs and institutions they were not revolutionaries. They feared the uneducated masses and felt that political change should come from above - the ruler - rather than below. Most did not object to a ruling elite but wished only that they be more enlightened. The American Revolution changed everything. II KEY CONCEPTS: 1. REASON: The methods of natural science could be used to examine and understand all aspects of life. Nothing should be accepted on faith. Everything could be submitted to the rational, critical, and scientific way thinking. Reason was the absence of intolerance, bigotry, or prejudice in one's thinking. 2. NATURE: The scientific method was capable of discovering the laws of human society as well as those of nature. There are natural laws of economics and politics just as there were natural laws of motion. Enlightenment writers frequently referred to nature. What was natural was also good and reasonable. 3. PROGRESS: By using the scientific method to discover the laws of human existence it was possible for human beings to create better societies and better people. Education was the key to progress. 4. HAPPINESS: A person who lived by nature's laws would find happiness. They were impatient with the church's notion that people should accept misery in this world to find joy in the hereafter. They wanted well-being on Earth and believed it was possible. 5. LIBERTY: The Philosophes envied the liberties the English won in the Glorious Revolution and from the Bill of Rights. Through reason society could be set free. 5

2 III EFFECTS OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT: 1. Exposed the evils and abuses of the ruling regimes. 2. The Philosophes' attacks on authority and tradition undermined respect for existing institutions. 3. The doctrines of civil liberty and constitutional government provided the principles for the reorganization of society. 4. A completely secular world view emerged for the first time in human history. 5. Created a belief that natural science and reason could control all aspects of life. IV PHILOSOPHES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT 1. Charles-Louis Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu a. Book: The Spirit of Laws 1) The separation of powers in government between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. 2) The executive branch enforces laws, the legislative branch makes laws, and the judicial branch interprets laws. 3) A system of checks and balances prevents one branch from dominating the others Montesquieu 2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau a. Book: The Social Contract 1) The social contract: People are born with natural rights and agree to the existence of the State, or government, to protect those rights. Natural rights cannot be surrendered. 2) The general will: The desire of the majority. 3. John Locke Rousseau a. Book: Second Treatise of Government 1) All people have natural rights: Life, liberty, and property. 2) People have the right to overthrow their government when it abuses those rights. 4. Denis Diderot Locke a. Book: Encyclopedia The Encyclopedia had two purposes: 1) To collect all knowledge possible into one source. 2) To teach people how to think critically and objectively about 6

3 all matters. 5. Francois Voltaire a. Books: Philosophical Dictionary and Candide Voltaire's work ranges from philosophical analysis, to light poems. 1) He glorifies science and reason. 2) Appeals for better people and institutions. 3) Satirizes political institutions, society, and the Catholic Church - "crush the infamous thing". Diederot 6. Pierre Bayle a. Book: Critical and Historical Dictionary 1) Advocated complete toleration of ideas. 2) A person should be free to worship any religion or none at all. 3) Nothing could be known beyond all doubt. 7. Marquis di Beccaria a. Book: On Crimes and Punishment 1) Sought to humanize criminal law based on concepts of reason and equality before the law. 2) Punishment for a crime should be bases rationally on the damage done to society. 3) Opposed the death penalty except for serious threats against the state. 4) Opposed torture to extract confessions. Voltaire 8. Baron Paul d Holbach a. Book: System of Nature 1) Argued humans were ike machines, completely determined by outside forces. (Determinism) 2) His staunch atheism, determinism, and attacks on Christianity undermined the Enlightenment. 9. David Hume Key Ideas: 1) Argued against faith in both natural law and religious faith. 2) Claimed human ideas were merely the result of sensory experiences; thus, human reason could not go beyond what was experienced through the senses. 3) Undermined the Enlightenment s emphasis on reason. 7

4 10. Immanuel Kant a. Books: The Critique of Pure Reason and The Critique of Practical Reason 1) Believed that David Hume was in error in his extreme pessimism (skepticism) and total reliance on the senses. 2) Kant introduced the concept of transcendentalism in which some things are known by methods other than empirically; they transcend empirical or sensory experience. 3) His belief in the existence of a non-rational way to understand things conflicted strongly with the ideas of the Enlightenment, although it became very influential among German philosophers about a century later. Kant V WOMEN IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT 1. Women played a major role in the salon movement. a. Many of the brightest minds of the Enlightenment assembled in salons to discuss the major issues of the day. b. Certain women organized salons and took part in the discussion 1) Madame de Geoffrin. 2) Louise de Warens. c. Geoffrin played a major role in patronizing Diderot s Encyclopedia. 2. The philosophes favored increased rights and education for women. 3. In England, Mary Wollstonecraft promoted political and educational equality for women. Mary Wollstonecraft Salon of Madame de Geoffrin 8

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