In general, the Enlightenment had a positive impact on society but it also provided justification for racism and sexism. 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 their intellect. 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 system. Enlightened monarchs also encouraged the education of the lower classes in order to have better trained soldiers and workers. 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 women. There was little improvement in working or living conditions; Russia, the conditions of the serfs worsened under Catherine the Great. The philosophers' provided justification for traditional sexism 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.
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