In general, the Enlightenment had a positive impact
on society but it also provided justification for racism
Rationalism: All truths must be arrived at through
logical, critical thinking, and none should be accepted
on faith or authority alone.
Science: Scientific methods could be used to examine
the human world as well as the natural world to
discover the laws of human society as they had
discovered the laws of the physical world.
Progress: Humans could use scientific research to find
ways to improve life and advance humanity.
The golden age was not behind us in classical
antiquity or the Garden of Eden but ahead of us.
There was a belief that human reason, given by God to all
people, who are born with a tabula rasa, will lead the efforts to
establish democratic forms of government.
A wealthy or talented individuals gained influence because of
The reading revolution empowered individual readers to learn
and interpret on their own.
The huge explosion in publishing and empowered people
without formal education.
Libraries disseminated books to the poor.
Coffeehouses provided venues for the discussion of new ideas.
Legal reforms enacted by enlightened monarchs eliminated or
reduced torture and the worst abuses of the traditional legal
Enlightened monarchs also encouraged the education of the
lower classes in order to have better trained soldiers and
The secular and skeptical spirit of both movements helped
reduce the influence of religion and the church – could be see as
a negative effect by some.
The highest level of philosophical inquiry and discussion
was reserved for the elites in salons run by wealthy
There was little improvement in working or living
Russia, the conditions of the serfs worsened under
Catherine the Great.
The philosophers' provided justification for traditional
Women were excluded from scientific academies and were limited
mostly to a supporting role during the Enlightenment.
Philosophes often used non-European cultures as foils in their work
As some scientists had observed nature as being organized
hierarchically, humans too were organized into hierarchies
determined by race, defined as biologically determined differences,
which was new .
Previously, Europeans grouped other peoples into “nations” based on their
historical, political, and cultural affiliations, rather than on supposedly
innate physical differences
Europeans began to define themselves as not only culturally superior
but racially superior as well.
Hume and Kant both popularized such ideas, describing other races as
uncivilized, inferior, degenerate.
Some intellectuals challenged such ideas
Diderot criticized European arrogance and exploitation
Beattie pointed out that Europeans started out as savages and that non
Europeans had achieved high levels of civilization
Herder argued that it was silly to classify humans into races by skin color
and that each culture was as intrinsically worthy as any other.
These challenges to ideas of racially inequality were in the minority.
Most Enlightenment thinkers agreed with Kant and Hume.