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The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment

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					The Age of Reason and
the Enlightenment
1680-1780
"Dare to Know"
   The Enlightenment was a movement of
    intellectuals who dared to know
   They had been impressed by the advances of the
    Scientific Revolution, but for them reason meant
    the application of the scientific method to the
    understanding of all life
   They believed that all institutions and all systems
    of thought were subject to the rational, scientific
    way of thinking – Natural Laws
   Goal – to free mankind from the shackles of past
    traditions and make progress toward creating a
    better society than the one they inherited
Bernard de Fontenelle &
Popular Science
       Was not a scientist, but he possessed a
        deep knowledge of the scientific work of
        his own and past periods
       What he did was to communicate that
        knowledge in a clear and even witty
        fashion that appealed to his upper-class
        audience
    –     Plurality of Worlds
       As a result, science was no longer the
        monopoly of experts, but part of
        literature
A New Skepticism of
Religion and Tradition
       The great scientists of the 17th century had
        practiced their work within a Christian context
       However, as scientific knowledge spread, more
        and more people began to question religious
        truths and values
       Increased skepticism about religion and a
        growing secularization of thought were
        becoming clearly evident throughout Europe
       Pierre Bayle (1647-1706)
    –     Attacked superstition, religious intolerance, and
          dogmatism
    –     Argued that individual conscience should determine
          one’s actions and thus supported religious toleration
Impact of Travel
Literature
       This new skepticism was nurtured further by
        travel reports
       Throughout the 17th century traders,
        missionaries, and explorers published these
        travel reports giving accounts the many cultures
        they visited
       Two main effects
    –     For intellectuals, the existence of exotic peoples gave
          rise to the notion of a “natural man” or “noble savage”
    –     Also led to the realization that there were highly
          developed civilizations with different customs in the
          world - cultural relativism
Isaac Newton’s Laws of
Physics
   Intellectuals
    believed they could
    take Newton’s rules
    of reasoning and
    apply them to
    discover the natural
    laws that governed
    politics, economics,
    justice, religion and
    the arts
John Locke’s Theory of
Knowledge
       His theory of knowledge had a great influence
        upon the philosophes
       Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
    –     Locke denied Descartes’ belief that there were innate
          ideas
    –     Locke, instead argued that every person was born with
          a tabula rasa, a blank slate
    –     Knowledge is derived from one’s environment, not
          heredity
    –     By changing the environment and subjecting people to
          proper influences they could be changed and society
          made better - progress
Philosophes and Their
Ideas
       Who were the Philosophes?
    –     Group of intellectuals, though many were not
          French and few were philosophers in the
          strictest sense
    –     Came from both the nobility and lower
          classes
       Was an international and cosmopolitan
        movement, though it was mainly
        dominated and led by the French with its
        capital at Paris
Philosophes and Their
Ideas
   What was a philosophe?
    – One who “applies himself to the study of society with the
      purpose of making his kind better and happier”
    – Rationalism – applying the scientific method, appealing to
      facts and experience, to all aspects of life
   The philosophes constituted a “family circle,” but
    there could be disagreements
   As the Enlightenment spread over a century, it
    evolved, becoming more radical, but there were
    three figures who more than any other dominated
    the period
Baron de Montesquieu
(1689-1755)
       Persian Letters (1721)
    –     Used the format of two Persians traveling in western
          Europe and sending their observations home
    –     Allowed Montesquieu to criticize French institutions,
          especially the Catholic Church and monarchy
       The Spirit of the Laws (1748)
    –     A comparative study of governments in which he tried
          to apply the Scientific Method to ascertain the “natural
          laws” governing the social relationships of human
          beings
    –     Distinguished three types of government – republics,
          monarchy, and despotism
    –     Concept of checks & balances
Voltaire (1694-1778)
       Greatest figure of the Enlightenment
       Initially studied law, but he wished to be a
        writer and achieved his first success as a
        playwright and was hailed by many to be the
        successor of Racine
       However, his writings got him into trouble and
        he had to flee to England in 1725
    –     Philosophic Letters on the English (1733)
       Return to France and time in Potsdam
       Candide (1759)
Voltaire (1694-1778)
   Although he touched
    on nearly every
    subject, Voltaire was
    known more for his
    criticism of traditional
    religion
   Believed strongly in
    religious toleration and
    was not afraid to lend
    his prestige and skills
    to the fight against
    religious intolerance
Denis Diderot (1713-
1784)
   Most famous contribution was the 28 volume
    Encyclopedia
   Its purpose “was to change the general way of
    thinking”
   Became the major weapon of the philosophes in
    trying to change French society
   Many philosophes made contributions to the
    Encyclopedia attacking religious superstition,
    advocating toleration as well as a program for
    social, legal, and political improvements that
    would lead to a society that was more
    cosmopolitan, more tolerant, more human and
    more reasonable
A New "Science of Man"

   David Hume and the Birth of the New
    Human Science
   The Enlightenment belief that Newton’s
    laws could be used to discover the
    natural laws that governed human life
    led to the development of what was
    called by the philosophes as the “science
    of man” - the social sciences
Quesnay and Laws
Governing the Economy
       Francois Quesnay and the Physiocrats
    –     Believed they could discover the laws that
          govern economics
    –     Land constituted the only source of wealth
    –     The natural economic forces of supply and
          demand made it clear that individuals should
          left to their own economic interests, free
          from state control or laissez-faire
       Both beliefs countered the traditional
        view of mercantilism
Adam Smith and The
Wealth of Nations
   Made greatest statement supporting
    laissez-faire with his book The Wealth of
    Nations
   Argued that labor was the true source of
    wealth and that there should be no
    restrictions on trade – free trade
   Also major proponent of laissez-faire
   Believed government should stay out of
    citizen’s lives except for defense, police,
    and public works
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
       One of the great figures of the late Enlightenment
       Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind
    –      Began with people in their primitive state
    –      To preserve their property, people adopted laws and
           government, thus creating the situation of “Man was born
           free, but is everywhere in chains”
    –      Government was an evil, but a necessary one
       The Social Contract (1762)
    –      Rousseau tried to harmonize individual liberty with
           governmental authority
    –      Social contract was an agreement on the part of society to
           be governed by its general will
    –      Liberty to Rousseau was achieved through being forced to
           follow what was best for all people because what was best
           for all was best for each individual
The Rococo Style
   Although Baroque and Neoclassical were
    still dominant, by the 1730’s a new style
    appeared - Rococo
   Unlike the Baroque which emphasized
    majesty & power, Rococo rejected
    geometrical patterns and emphasized
    grace and gentle action and had a
    fondness for curves
   Moreover, its decorative work could
    easily be used with Baroque architecture
The Rococo Style:
Examples
Music in the Age of
Reason
   Baroque Music: Bach and Handel
    – Bach wrote toward religious music - music to him was a
      means to exalt God
    – Handel was more secular in tone, traveling throughout
      Europe being more cosmopolitan to Bach’s provincialism
   Classical Music: Haydn and Mozart
    – Haydn was a prolific composer, originally serving as
      musical director for the Esterhazy family
    – Mozart was the boy genius and one of the greatest figures
      of the classical period
    – Known for his symphonies and operas, but died a debt-
      ridden pauper at age 35
Religion and the Churches
   Although European
    intellectual society
    was becoming
    more secularized
    and anti-religious,
    religion still played
    an important role
   The majority of
    Europeans were
    still Christians
Church and State:
The Jesuit Example
   By the 18th century, many of the Catholic
    states attempted to gain more control over
    the Church within their territories
   This “nationalization” also meant controlling
    the papacy and its agents, the Jesuits
   Expulsion and Dissolution of the Jesuits,
    1773
   Additionally, the papacy lost power as it
    became a minor player in world affairs and
    lost its right to appoint high clerical
    positions in the Catholic states
Toleration and the Jews
   By the 18th century, the Jews still remained
    the most despised of the religious minorities
   However, some Enlightenment thinkers
    favored a new acceptance of the Jews
   They argued that Jews and Muslims, as
    human beings, deserved the full rights of
    citizenship despite their religion
   But they believed the Jews should be
    assimilated into mainstream society,
    something most Jews were not willing to
    accept

				
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