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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

The Enlightenment

- World History -
The Enlightenment, Age of Reason

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that took place from the 1600s to 1789, the French Revolution. The center of this movement was France. The most notable group of men was called "philosophes."

Jean Jacques Rosseau
Jean Jacques Rosseau, 1712 - 1778

General Characteristics of the Movement

Held reason as the basis of their thinking. Attacked superstition, ignorance, and easy acceptance of authority.

Used the scientific method.

Since Newton had proved that the universe worked in certain laws, shouldn't man, society, government, and education work in laws, too?

Scientific Revolution had demolished old ideas. People looked at the world in a scientific way and everything was / is controlled by natural laws.

A new idea of man, guided by natural laws, had to come about - a paradigm shift. Since people (as evidenced by the cultures the explorers found) were not all alike, coming up with a consistent view of man was difficult.

Approach of 18th-Century Philosophies

Everyone, since they are human, is the same. Everyone has the same features - different cultures were secondary to this. They tried to figure out what happened before: families, governments, customs, etc. - The Noble Savage Concept. (Turned out that the "Noble Savage" didn't exist).

Man in the State of Nature
Humans were completely free, answering to their own needs. They were not bound to family, society, or government. People spent their time acquiring property to meet their needs. This was not easy. "Life was nasty, brutish, and short," said Hobbes. When things got nasty (if two people wanted the same thing, it could get ugly) they entered into a social contract: entering society, giving up some freedoms in exchange for protection of life and property.

Most thinkers thought the fewer the rules, the better. Protect life and property, but leave natural freedoms intact. There were arguments about government Voltaire and Hobbes wanted absolute monarchy. Rosseau wanted Democracy. Montesquieu, Jefferson, and Locke wanted separation of power and constitutional checks on the monarchy.

John Locke
John Locke (1632 - 1704)

Locke believed that property was very important. Since property was legitimate, government was legitimate, too. The people had a right to property, to government, and to revolution. The people had a right to legitimate government, and the king must provide it, lest he be legitimately overthrown. Even Locke was worried about his ideas about the peoples' right to overthrow their government. He remained in Holland for ten years, keeping his work unpublished. Locke returned after the Glorious Revolution (on the same ship Queen Mary returned on) and published his works.

Simplicity and Social Restraint
These rules of simplicity and social restraint applied to other aspects of human society. Emotionalism and theatricality were out; human reason, simplicity, and intellectual restraint were in.

Art. Art became more refined.

Literature. The fluid oratory of Shakespeare was replaced by simple clarity.

Religion. People were suspicious of religion. They were impressed by findings in science, many philosophies argued for atheism or deism. Deism is the belief that God was a Great Clock Maker, who, after creating the world according to natural laws, sat back and watched it run according to natural laws.

David Hume
David Hume 1711 - 1776
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
1724 - 1804

Education. Before the Enlightenment students were seen as sinful, arrogant, and indifferent to self-improvement. Education was tough - lots of punishment, uncomfortable benches, etc. During the Enlightenment, people thought education should be built around a child's development (emotional, physical, and intellectual) and that the primary curriculum should come from nature.

Voltaire jouant aux échecs
JEAN HUBER 1775-76
Click for an enlargement.
Voltaire Triomphe de Voltaire
Click to view the entire painting.
Bust of Voltaire
Bust of Voltaire

1. The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution
Causes, Inventions, Galileo, Newton, Scientific Method

2. The Enlightenment (Age of Reason)
Man in the State of Nature - Locke, Voltaire

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More Information

Kant's Epistemological Model
and Religious Pluralism

Borg vs Hick

Historical Periods of
World History Class Study

| Prehistory | Mesopotamia & Phoenicians |
| Ancient Egypt | Greece | Rome |
| Medieval History | Renaissance and Reformation |
| Exploration | National Monarchies |
| The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment |
| Colonial America and American Revolution |
| The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era



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