The Enlightenment Essay
World History The Enlightenment: 1700-1789 Chapter Overview European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions.
The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by Enlightenment ideals and respectively marked the peak of its influence and the beginning of its decline.
In this chapter, we will examine the forces that set the stage for the French Revolution of 1789, one of the most significant events in European history. By the end of the eighteenth century, Western Europe had broken with much of its past, and was leading the Continent into a period of tumultuous social, political, and economic changes that were instrumental in the development of the modern age.
By the end of this chapter, you will be able to: * Describe the main tenets of key Enlightenment philosophies and explain how they have shaped Western thought * Assess the impact of modern Western thought on economic and political developments in the West during the eighteenth century * Demonstrate an understanding of key developments in attitudes towards religion and religious observance during the eighteenth century * Assess the influence of key individuals and groups whose ideas during the Enlightenment helped to shape Western attitudes The Enlightenment What is meant by the term ‘Enlightenment’? Period in history (eighteenth century) characterized by an increase in ideas aimed at reshaping society and promoting progress * Ideas included the importance of reason over emotion, free-market economics, rejection of unquestioned obedience to church and state, rejection of superstition, recognition of human rights (public education, freedom of thought, speech, press, abolition of slavery and more humane treatment of criminals) * Revolutionary thinking often led to radical changes in society, laid foundations for the ideals underpinning social structure and organization today
What were some factors that contributed to the changes during the eighteenth century? * Steady rise in population due to fewer deaths as a result of fewer wars and epidemics, improved hygiene * This led to increased demand for food, goods and services * Difficult to meet demand so there were more socially disadvantaged people * Agriculture imporved on larger scale, e. g. ikes, drainage canals, steel ploughs, applying fertiliziers, crop rotation * Radical changes in land distribution: landlords consolidating land (called “enclosure”) often led to riots by displaced peasants: some farmers moved to cities to seek work in manufacturing * Inventions increased productivity What were the organizing principles of the old regime? * Ancient regimes were based on status and divided into three main order, or estates first clergy second nobility – the rest society * Division ordained Society based on privileges that were enforceable by law * Some privileges were honorific, while other provided for a reduced and in some cases exemption from some taxes * These privileges also included land ownership for the church and nobility that could not be taken away * At the top of the hierarchy was an absolute monarch who ruled by divine right * His power was divinely ordained and subject to only god and reason How did literacy challenge the rule of the ancient regime? Increasing number on educated people, thinking about solving society’s problems * Books translated/read in all European languages spread enlightenment thoughts, e/g/ free market end to medieval rejection of traditional religion, public education, freedom of thought, press an dspeech, abolition of slavery, more humane treatment of criminals * Invention of moveable type increase the number of writers and readers and le to the spread of enlightment ideas Describe the importance of literature as a form of social commentary.
How exactly did literature spread the ideals of the Enlightenment? * Many writers still dependant on patronage * when patronga estopped or denied, writers had to appeal to the wider public, focusing on middle class themes * protested political and moral corruptopm of the ruling class and church * moral truths expressed thorught a variety of genres * newspapers were central to the expression of ideas and opinions * pamphelets a vehicale for the middle class to express political opinions * novels appealed to a wider audience; satirized social situations and taught moral lessons
Enlightened Thinkers: Voltaire: * thinker, writer of Enlightenmen, well known for his satirical plays * defended religious tolerance and attacked religious piety * central figure of the enlightenment who promoted more humane treatment of criminals, more rational view of religion * the outspoked writer was born to middle-class parents, attended college in Paris, and began to study law. However, he quit law to become a playwright and made a name for himself with classical tragedies.
Critics embraced his epic poem, “La Henriade” but its satirical attack on politics and religion infuriated the government, and Voltaire was arrested in 1717. He spent nearly a year in the bastille. Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, he was forced to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was forced to flee again.
He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chatelet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. He died in Paris in 1778, having returned to supervise the production of one of his plays. John Locke: * English philosopher * Defended the right ti own property, need for elected governments, peopl’s right to overthrow the government if it was not looking after their needs Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1689):
To discover truths beyond the realm of basic experience, Locke suggested an approach modeled on the rigorous methods of experimental science.? The “Two Treatises of Government” (1690) offered political theories developed and refined by Locke during his years at Shaftesbury’s side. Rejecting the divine right of kings, Locke said that societies form governments by mutual (and, in later generations, tacit) agreement. Thus, when a king loses the consent of the governed, a society may remove him—an approach quoted almost verbatim in Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence.
Locke also developed a definition of property as the product of a person’s labor that would be foundational for both Adam Smith’s capitalism and Karl Marx’s socialism.?? In his “Thoughts Concerning Education” (1693), Locke argued for a broadened syllabus and better treatment of students—ideas that were an enormous influence on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s novel “Emile” (1762).?? “Letters Concerning Toleration” (1689-92): Locke spent his final 14 years in Essex at the home of Sir Francis Masham and his wife, the philosopher Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham. He died there on October 24, 1704, as Lady Damaris read to him from the Psalms.
Baron de Montesquieu: * French judge, writer and amateur scientist * Created the system of checks and balances, which was comprised of the three branches of government which most democratic governments use today branches include: legislative, executive and judicial) * Each branch was designed to check and balance the other so that power was shared equally * Believed that laws and social customs are shaped by society, that government and social structure should be created should be created to fit the society depending on its characteristics, e. g. rance was too large to be a republic * His ideas and writings were unique for the time as they focused on different places and time periods and the pros and cons of various political systems Cesare Beccaria: * Italian nobleman who ideas focused on reforming the criminal justice system * Believed that sustems of harsh punishments would not reform individuals; he called for an end to judicial torture and capital punishment * Many foreign monarchs praised his work but within Italy he was denounced as an enemy of religion Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Fench philosopher concerned with moral reform of society * Rejected enlightenment idea of progress, felt humans were better off when in a state of nature * Proposed new ideas regarding political authority: the general will, the common good * Highly influential during the French revolution * Particular influence on Robespierre, one of the most radical individuals of the French revolution Describe Rousseau’s philosophy of the right of individuals and the General Will. According to Rousseau, humanity in its natural state was emphathetic toward others. However, civilization, especially the invention of private property, introduced selfish individuals and destroyed natural goodness. * In order to restore a sense of community and place sovereignity in the hands of the people, a social contract was entered into in which individuals surrendered certain rights in exchange for protection * The people would express their wishes in the form fo the General Will.
It was the noblest essence of the people and was not necessarily the majority will * The good of the community was the ultimate authority and if an indivudla refused to comply he or she could leave it Adam Smith: * Scottish economist whose most famous work in Inquiry into the nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations * Belived in the need for free trade and that the :”invisible hand” of competition should regulate ecnomy Who were some groups (or individuals) who opposed the Enlightenment and Enlightened thinkers? Wwesleyans (Methodists) emphasized emotion over reason * Judiciary upheld pre-enlightenment ideas re: punishment for blasphemy and imposition of harsh sentences * Facchini, a monk who attacked Cesare Beccaria’s ideas on reform of criminal justice system, claimed beccaris was an enemy of religion * Paris Parliament condemnd Rousseau’s writings, claiming they were against government and religion How were salons both a benefit and drawback to the status of women during the Enlightenment? Salons provided women with an opportunity to particitupate in the intellectual discussions of the time * Womaen organized discussions amoung artists and intellectuals. Women were seen to complement the male reason with femine sensibility * However by the 1770’s the role of salons declined as they were criticized for making women prominent and causing the femizination of men Account for the confidence and optimism of the Age of the Enlightenment. What advances convinced philosophes that their society was making progress? The age of enlightnemnt was confiden and optimistic because its philosophies promoted reason and empiricism (theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience) as the ability to acquire knowledge * Knowledge would allow reforms to laws to take places and promote education and science * It also witnessed an increase in artistic literary production * The increase in knowledge seemed to indicate that everything could be understood and humanity would naturally benefit * Advances would be found in sciences and there would be further exploration of new religions
How did the fine arts evolve during the Enlightenment? * In the seventeenth century, classicism was the dominant artist mode; it praised the classical world and depicted mythological and biblical themes. * This was followed by the Rococo Style, which influenced lush paintings, movement and delicacy. It appealed more to the sense than the mind. It stressed asymmetrical movement . Interiors were smaller and lighter than those in Versailles and made people feel more at ease * Intimate settings were perfect for the salon, where people conversed ane exchanged ideas, a central element of the Englightenment * The next stage was Neoclassicism. It stressed theme of civic duty and family and was organized geometricall.
It had a message to teach in a stable orderly manner * Music of the age sought to incorporate the values of classicism- order, harmony, and symmetry. It developed music as relations of sound without reference to a story. What were some significant developments in political, economic, and social thought during this time? Political| Economic| Social| Criticism of unquestioned obedience to authority * Desire for elected governments * People believed they had the right to overthrow the government| * Owning property believed to be a fundamental right * Condemnation of luxury and frivolous lifestyles * Push for free trade among nations * “Invisible hand” of competition should regulate economies| * Simplification of religious rituals was advocated * Greater religious tolerance * Rejection of beliefs in miracles and superstitions * View that laws and social customs are products of the conditions of society * Attacks on religious piety * Move against cruel punishments of criminals; reform rather than harsh punishment * Emphasis on importance of individual responsibility * Anti-slavery movements * Interest in improving the status of women| Was the Enlightenment a logical progression from the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution? * The Enlightenment was a logical progression because the Reformation established the right of dissent against the Church and freedom to question its dogma and policies. * The Scientific Revolution rejected and questioned medieval science and promoted the quest for knowledge. It produced a variety of more accurate instruments and theories of the universe and science. * The Enlightenment questioned the absolutist state and promoted the rights of individuals. All three areas opened up topics and institutions of examination and reform.