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Time Frame and definition
The Enlightenment was, as Immanuel Kant puts it, man stepping away from his own self-immaturity. This era was an era characterized by and dominated by intellectuals who dared to know, greatly impressed by the Scientific Revolution, using the application of reason and the scientific method to study society and attempt to improve the condition of society and its people. The time frame can be said to run from 1700-1800. This era was characterized by new aspects and developments. Principle figures put forth new radical ideas and contributions. Not only that, but new areas of culture were being impacted as well.
Science world being spread to non-scientific
The first aspect of society that was impacted was the science world. Because the enlightenment was not a movement of simply scientists, but rather ordinary people, science became a popular topic among them. For example, science wasn’t spread by hard copies, such as Newton’s Principia. Instead, it was spread among circles of educated Europeans, such as Bernard de Fontanelle, who made science easy to comprehend through his book Plurality of Worlds, which educated Europeans on the world. Therefore, the Enlightenment contributed much to the knowledge of ordinary people.
a. Growing skepticism toward religion
i. Pierre Bayle and religious intolerance
Another aspect was a growing skepticism toward religion. While Galileo, Kepler, and Newton simply tried to teach science without getting God out of the picture, many people in this era were very determined to remove God from all areas of life. In fact, religion came to be questioned. An example is through Pierre Bayle who attacked superstition, religious intolerance, and dogmatism, saying it was practically a walking contradiction. He did not understand why religion forced people to believe in one thing was wrong as it was not what religion was about. He wanted religious toleration, a cry that would be heard throughout this era.
a. Travel Literature
New view of mankind and their society
A development that came out of this skepticism was travel literature, which revealed new cultures and caused people to question their own cultures. Because of the voyages, the existence of exotic peoples became known, causing people to see them as noble savages, leading to the development of the conflict of polygenesis and monogenesis. The Africans, however, were always viewed as inferior. Not only that, but it also caused people to reevaluate their own society and culture in comparison to the great developed civilizations in other parts of the world. This led to cultural relativism.
a. Locke and Newtonà
Two principle figures of the enlightenment that contributed to the future of the Enlightenment and provided the impetus for the future philosophes. They were Locke and Newton. Because the Enlightenment was based on improving society, Locke contributed ideas as to what he believed would bring about a better society. For example, Locke believed that everyone was born with a blank mind. Their minds then develop on the basis of what they encounter in society. If they reform their society, they can reconstruct man’s mind. Newton was important in that, through his scientific method, he became a model that philosophes followed in using the scientific method to study every aspect of society and reveal its natural laws.
a. Locke and Newton--> philosophes and dominance of Paris
Inspired by Locke and Newton, the Enlightenment brought about intellectuals from every area of life—from literary people to journalists, etc.—looking to change the world, not just discuss it. Although it was an international movement, Paris dominated. The philosophes basic call was for freedom of expression. This aspect of their movement shows that they were limited and unable to write whatever they wanted. Because they had publishers, they had censors who told them what they could and could not write. Failure to comply would result in seizure of books and imprisonment. They combated this by posting anonymously or using double meanings. Three French giants that greatly impacted this era were Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot.
Montesquieu was a principle figure famous for The Spirit of the Laws, where he compared governments and came to state out three governments. There were the republics for small lands, monarchy, for middle-sized, and despotism, for the large lands that needed strict control. He admired England and their separate branches of government into legislative, executive, and judicial (provided freedom), calling for a separation of powers for France through checks and balances. However, he misconstrued England’s situation and wanted to simply get the nobility of France to play a part in government. He also wrote Persian Letters, criticizing French institutions and also calling for religious toleration, once again, a recurring motif.
Voltaire was another principle figure of the Enlightenment. Although he studied law, he eventually became a playwright, producing witty plays that were loved by all, but eventually got him into trouble with a nobleman, forcing him to leave France. It was almost destiny that this occurred because fate brought Voltaire to England, where he was amazed. He eventually wrote Philosophical Letters on the English, expressing his admiration of English life and its freedom of press, politics, and religious toleration. This was viewed as a great criticism of France; and, as a result, his return to France caused him to have to retire to Cirey, where he lived with the marquis de Chatelet. She herself was famous for her translation of the Principia. Together, the both of them wrote a book about Newton’s philosophy. Eventually, he relocated to Ferney, where he was free to write as he pleased, bringing in money for him. While he covered several areas of society, he was especially unhappy with religious intoleration and advocated religious toleration, especially after the Calas affair. After he wrote, advocating retrial, they finally discovered his son had committed suicide. After this, Voltaire wrote Treatise of Toleration, where he greatly called for religious toleration, claiming that there is stability in England and Holland. He also supported deism.
The last major figure of the triple was Diderot. Diderot was a very harsh critic on Christianity, arguing its absurdity and atrocity.” He created the Encyclopedia to change the general way of thinking. This Encyclopedia actually became the major weapon in the philosophes’ crusade against French institutions as many attacked religious superstition and advocated toleration. Because the price of the work was lowered, it led to wider circulation.
a. Science of Man
These beliefs, as well as Newton’s scientific method, led to the “science of man” or social sciences, where philosophes arrived at natural laws believed to govern human actions. David Hume argued that common sense, observation, and reflection made possible this science of man.
ii. Adam Smith
Hand-in-hand with the science of man was economics, the foundation of which was laid down by Adam Smith and the Physiocrats. The Physiocrats under Francois Quesnay tried to discover the natural economic laws, saying such things as land was the only source of wealth and that there should be a single tax. They also repudiated mercantilism and stressed individual freedom in economics. This laid down the foundation for laissez-faire, which argued that the state should in no way interfere in the regulation of the economy. Not only was Quesnay keen on removing the government, but Adam Smith, author of the Wealth of Nations, assigned the government three jobs: protect, defend, and provide public works. They should, he believed, keep out of economics. He laid down the foundation for economic liberalism.
a. Baron Paul d’Holbach and Condorcet
While these views were dominated by early enlightenment thinkers, generations later produced more radical thought in the Later Enlightenment. For example, Baron Paul d’ Holbach preached of strict atheism in his System of Nature, saying that humans were machines and God was a product of the human mind. This, however, scared many philosophes and they stuck to deism. Another radical thinker, Marie-Jean de Condorcet believed that there are numerous levels of progress. Man has occupied nine stages of history. And, by studying history, can reach the tenth and most perfect level.
The most critical of the work of his predecessors was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A social misfit, he spent his time in solitude, which enabled him to come up with his radical idea of about humans in their primitive condition. They were happy, but wanted protection of their property, eventually relying on government to do this. They were restrained however with the government, but couldn’t live without it. In his Social Contract, Rousseau tries to harmonize individual liberty with governmental authority, saying the society agreed to be governed by its general will, which was best for the entire community. True freedom was following the laws that one places on himself, not by others. This was a cry for a participatory democracy. He also wrote works about education, saying that promptings of the heart should be regarded in the same way as reason. This was a precursory idea of Romanticism. Despite these ideas, Rousseau was a major hypocrite who had his own kids put into foundling homes and stated a woman’s job was tending to her husband and kids. How could someone follow the ideas of a hypocrite?
As aresponse to Rousseau and other traiditonal views of women, women also gained dominance in this era as well; although were once again disadvantaged with their position in the world. Because the Scientific Revolution proved their “inferiority”, males were critical on women. Some, however did not care whether they participated in the Enlightenment or not, such as Voltaire. Nevertheless, women provided new perspectives. For example, Mary Astell wrote A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, where she argued that they must be educated. She also argued for equality of the sexes in marriage. The most important figure in driving the idea that women are equal and should be treated as such was Mary Wollstonecraft, whose Vindication of the Rights of Women argued that women should not have to obey men because it is contrary to the idea of the same individuals, as well as they have reason; and since the Enlightenment believes humans are innate creatures with reason, they should have the same rights as men.
Despite males’ failure to see the value in women, women played a major role as they were the ones who brought numerous philosophes together for debates and discussions in salons. The salons served great importance as they brought together people from various different areas and helped spread ideas. Women had great power in these areas as they had the ability to sway the ideas of the kings and political opinion. One famous woman of salons was Marie-Therese de Geoffrin who brought together encyclopedists to her salon to complete the Encyclopedia in secret after it was oppressed. Nevertheless, she did have opponents. Although women had great power in these salons, these signs of power were becoming evident, and many people complained, leading to the decline of the salons. Still, the spread of ideas did not stop as they were merely spread via coffeehouses and cafes, as well as learned societies.
Division of cultures
Although there were numerous areas of culture impacted, culture itself was divided between the high for the wealthy and popular for all others. For example, in terms of drinking, the upper class drank port and brandy, while the lower class indulged in gin. This greatly separated the cultures. Furthermore, popular culture was dominated by the carnival and annual festivals. The carnival was a time of relaxation, fun, and enjoyment, where people could engage in physical and verbal abuse and not get into trouble. Nevertheless, the upper class eventually began to abandon this as well. One area that did not discriminate against the two cultures and appealed to both was in the field of magazines and newspapers. Women were especially attracted to newspapers and some were even involved in writing, such as Eliza Haywood of the The Female Spectator.
With the division of cultures followed division in education. Although the elites had their secondary schools and wanted to keep it within elitist boundaries, primary education was beginning to spring up with little real growth for the popular culture, however. Nevertheless, the popular culture began to see dramatic rises in literacy rates. As for the elitists, universities continued teaching traditional areas of study, such as Greek and Latin classics, leading to great dissension. Eventually, more practical curriculum was being taught, such as modern languages, geography, and bookkeeping. Girls also learned religion and domestic skills, and later, astronomy, mathematics, and physics.
The cultural aspects of this era were very large. Rococo was a new decorative and architectural movement that replaced the majesty and power of Baroque with strict geometrical patterns and curves. One Rococo artist was Antoine Watteau, who depicted the upper class with pleasure and joy, but fragility underneath. Rococo was also important in terms of building palaces, where it fused with Baroque to create pilgrimage churches and bishop palaces. Neoclassicism in France, however, remained dominant.
In terms of great music, great changes occurred with the introduction of the sonata, oratorio, opera, etc., as well as genres. Although Bach and Handel are considered during the Baroque period, they lived in the enlightened period. Handel was famous for his Messiah and also wrote large, unusual- sounding pieces. Bach was an organist and musical director who wrote his mass in B minor, Saint Matthew’s Passions, and numerous cantantes and motets. For him, music meant worship of god. After these two men, new orchestral music and instruments sprang up with Haydn and Mozart. Haydn originally wrote for princes, but seeing in England, musicians writing for public concerts, he wrote his great oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons. Mozart, a musical genius, however, wrote prolific music and operas, such as The Marriage of Figaro, the Magic Flute, and Don Giovanni. He gave a harpsichord concert at six and wrote his first opera at 12.
Literature and History
Aside from music, other cultural aspects included the novel, which was the vehicle for fiction literature in England. It appealed to all. Two authors who countered each other were Samuel Richardson, who wrote Pamela, a sentimental work, and Henry Fielding, who wrote witty novels. History was also impacted as philosophe-historians removed God completely from history. They believed history provided lessons for mankind. An example is through Edward Gibbon, who wrote Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, blaming the fall on Christianity. He believed all could learn from this tragedy.
New Developments: Crime and Punishment
New developments in terms of crimes and punishment also sprang up. People began to dislike the cruel torture that were used to extract confessions. Not only that, but there were also the death penalty, forced labor, and terrible execution. This led to the cry of less violence, which resulted in a new type of prison being formed.
New Developments: Medicine
Medicine also saw improvements as it became more professionalized. For example, physicians now had to be licensed to be able to practice. Also new methods in clinical experience were becoming dominant. Not only that, but surgeons and physicians were becoming indistinguishable as they were doing practically the same thing. Surgeons, too, had to be licensed. Other medical practitioners, such as apothecaries, served the common people.
New developments: Religion and Nationalization
Lastly, there were approaches in religion. Despite the great religious dissent among the philosophes, Protestant state churches flourished and the Catholic Church still gained control of some regions. However, its main tool was the Jesuits, who were very successful and created special enclaves. Because Catholic states wanted greater authority over their Catholic Church, they engaged in “nationalization,” which meant control of the papacy. As a result, they went straight for the Jesuits, the papacy’s primary instrument that gave it its power. Once wiping the Jesuits out, the power of the pope declined and Catholic governments gained control over their churches.
New Developoments: Joseph II and Religious Toleration
Aside from Catholics, there were, in general, cries for religious toleration, much to the opposition of the rulers. Louis XIV, for example, wanted one religion to unify France. Other rulers believed it was their duty to guide the subjects away from hell. However, Joseph II of Austria wanted change and passed the Toleration Patent in 1781, recognizing and allowing worship of both protestant and catholic religions. The Jews, however, were disadvantaged. They were frequently attacked. Still, many others worked in courts for rulers, and Joseph II even allowed them more freedom of movement and freedom from burdensome taxes. Still, they were disadvantaged.
New Developments: Deeper Spiritual Experiences
There were also cries for better relationships with God. In terms of Protestants, Pietism developed for a deeper personal devotion to God created by Count Nikolaus von Zizzendorf who wanted true religious experiences. England too desired deep spiritual experience, leading to Wesley and Methodism. The followers were organized into Methodist societies and aided each other in doing good works. Although Wesley tried to keep it together, eventually, it separated from the Anglican Church after his death.
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