The Enlightenment

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					        The Enlightenment
 The main components of Enlightenment
  thought are as follows:
 The universe is fundamentally rational, that
  is, it can be understood through the use of
  reason alone
 Truth can be arrived at through empirical
  observation, the use of reason, and
  systematic doubt;
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 Human experience is the foundation of human
  understanding of truth; authority is not to be
  preferred over experience;
 All human life, both social and individual, can be
  understood in the same way the natural world can
  be understood;
 Once understood, human life, both social and
  individual, can be manipulated or engineered in
  the same way the natural world can be
  manipulated or engineered
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 Human history is largely a history of
 Human beings can be improved through
  education and the development of their
  rational facilities
 Religious doctrines have no place in the
  understanding of the physical and human
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 Enlightenment Thinkers: Baruch Spinoza
 There is one and only one thing in the universe
  and that one thing is God.
 Everything else is simply a part of God. Any
  proposition concerning the physical is, then, a
  proposition about the nature of God..
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 For Spinoza, the new physical sciences were, by
  and large, connected with with theology.
 This position would be reiterated by Isaac Newton
  and the deists, who argued that understanding the
  rational workings of the universe would also mean
  understanding the rational workings of its creator,
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 Spinoza believed that human action was
  fundamentally mechanistic. Human actions
  resulted from two things: the external
  environment and internal passions.
 The relationship between the environment,
  passions, and human action was a
  mechanistic relationship; all human actions,
  then, could be explained in terms of laws.
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 The Philosophes: Central Ideas:
 Progress: Human history is largely a history of
  the improvement of humanity in three respects:
    – a) developing a knowledge of the natural world and the
      ability to manipulate the world through technology;
    – b) overcoming ignorance bred of superstitions and
    – c) overcoming human cruelty and violence through
      social improvements and government structures.
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   Deism: Deism is a term coined in the philosophe
    movement and applies to two related ideas:
    – a) religion should be reasonable and should result in the
      highest moral behavior of its adherents;
    – b) the knowledge of the natural world and the human
      world has nothing to do whatsoever with religion and
      should be approached completely free from religious
      ideas or convictions.
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 Tolerance: The greatest human crimes, as far as
  the philosophes were concerned, have been
  perpetrated in the name of religion and the name
  of God.
 A fair, just, and productive society absolutely
  depends on religious tolerance.
 This means not merely tolerance of varying
  Christian sects, but tolerance of non-Christian
  religions as well (for some philosophes ).
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 The Physiocrats: Believed that the role of
  government was to protect private property
  and permit owners to use it freely
 Rationalism, free trade and a more efficient
  use of land (consolidation of smaller
  holdings) were all part of their worldview.
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 Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations:
 While other eighteenth century thinkers
  were concerned about improvements in
  knowledge and society, Smith believed that
  human progress largely consisted in the
  steady improvement of human life through
  the increasing wealth of a nation as a whole.
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 Characteristics of the Growth of the
  “modern Economy”
 Division of Labor.
    – Output had increased as the tasks of workers
      became more and more specialized.
   The division of labor was to be encouraged
    without reservation.
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 Smith's foundational argument is that all meaning
  and value in human life is to be found in
  productive labor.
 The exponential increase of production, then, not
  only resulted in more wealth for the nation, but
  greater meaning and value for human life.
 He did not, of course, see the later ills of labor
  exploitation and the “objectification of labor” that
  resulted from unfettered production.
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 He also proposed that all monopolies (like
  mercantile economies) be discouraged…
 Competition in its purest form was the
  ground work of all economies.
 Further, there should be no government
  regulation to discourage competition.
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 Selfishness would lead to a better product and the
  invisible hand of the market would ensure that
  the best product for the fairest price would prevail.
 Lastly, there needed to be resources to feed this
  ever growing economic machine in Europe.
 Here we see Smith formulate one of the
  cornerstone ideas of the latter imperialist era:
  Resources and their acquisition.
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 The material world was an infinite store of
  resources that could be exploited for the benefit of
 It was necessary for humans to approach material
  resources, not as scarce, but as infinitely abundant.
 The idea that the world is an infinite storehouse of
  resources open to human exploitation is such a
  common aspect of our lives, that it's hard to realize
  that it's a modern idea that can be dated back to
  Smith's book.
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 Edward Gibbon. Writes a definitive history fo the
  fall of the Roman Empire. He take a decidedly
  rational view of the major caused of the fall:
 One: that Rome fell from the invasion of the
  barbarians. This is not exactly groundbreaking
  ideology. His second point is more in tune with
  the growth of the importance of rationalism.
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 Second, Rome declined when it adopted
  Christianity, which he called "servile and
  pusillanimous" and a religion which
  "debased" the Roman mind and soul.
 The Romans replaced scientific rationalism
  with a "vile" religion; this, above all, made
  Rome vulnerable to internal degradation
  and external predation.
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 Jean Jacques Rousseau
 "Man is born free but everywhere is in chains."
 The foundation of his thought on government and
  authority is the idea of the "social contract," in
  which government and authority are a mutual
  contract between the authorities and the governed
 This contract implies that the governed agree to be
  ruled only so that their rights, property and
  happiness be protected by their rulers.
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   The Discourse on Inequality outlines all the key
    ideas that were to greatly influence modern
    – a) the idea of the noble savage, that is, the happiest state
        of humankind is a middle state between completely
        wild and completely civilized;
    –   b) the idea of social contract;
    –   c) the nature of human distinctions;
    –   d) the criticism of property; and
    –   e) the nature of human freedom.
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 Civilization has corrupted the natural state
  of Mankind.
 Progress; Urbanization; Mechanization;
  Scientific progress have all added to the
  degradation of mankind.
 Man naturally is moral, it has been society
  that has made us depraved.
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 Semi-civilized humanity looked to itself for
  its values and happiness, civilized human
  beings live outside themselves in the
  opinions and authority of others.
 The price of civilization is human freedom
  and human individuality:
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   “In reality, the difference is, that the savage
    lives within himself while social man lives
    outside himself and can only live in the
    opinion of others, so that he seems to
    receive the feeling of his own existence
    only from the judgment of others
    concerning him.”
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 In our pursuit for society approval…
 “We have nothing to show for ourselves but
  a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honor
  without virtue, reason without wisdom, and
  pleasure without happiness.”
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 Rousseau’s Social Contract
 Government is an invention of mankind
  because they realized they would have a
  better chance of protecting themselves and
  their possession collectively rather than
 Yet, as we to have seen, the original
  contract has become seriously flawed
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 The wealthiest and most powerful members
  of society "tricked" the general population,
  and so installed inequality as a permanent
  feature of human society.
 Rousseau argued, in The Social Contract ,
  that this contract between rulers and the
  ruled should be rethought…
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   If any form of government does not
    properly see to the rights, liberty, and
    equality of everyone, that government has
    broken the social contract that lies at the
    heart of political authority.
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 Yet it is incorrect to perceive that Rousseau
  is an advocate of individuality.
 Rousseau believed that the social contract,
  if it were followed on all sides, bound every
  member of society to obedience to political
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 He was really the first Enlightenment thinker to
  articulate the contractual basis of rights.
 Rights, or principles of individual autonomy or
  liberty, are not magical entitlements that come
  from heaven into this world the moment you pop
  out of the womb
 Nor are they inscribed in our DNA. Rights and
  liberties are social contracts.
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 For Rousseau, natural human beings are
  born completely self-sufficient and self-
  governing; social human beings are
  dependent and restricted.
 The rights and liberties that social human
  beings get are derived ultimately from a
  general social agreement.
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 Enlightened Absolutism
 The most immediate effects of the social and
  political thought of the philosophes was not felt in
  any grand overturning of established monarchies,
  but rather the adoption of enlightened absolutism
  by a small handful of highly educated and
  committed monarchs: Joseph II and Maria Theresa
  of Austria, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
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 While Louis XIV justified his absolute authority
  by appealing to the divine right of kings, the
  enlightened absolutists justified their absolute
  authority by proclaiming themselves servants of
  the state or the people.
 The enlightened served the state by pushing for
  reform in the government in order to stamp out
  unequal treatment before the law and preserve
  rights and property.
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 The first monarch to actively put these ideas into
  practice was Frederick II of Prussia, called the
  Great (1740-1785).
 He abolished the serf system which tied tenant
  farmers to certain properties for life and replaced
  the powers accruing to the nobility with a greatly
  expanded bureaucracy composed of educated civil
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 Frederick II, however, saw the need to include the
  nobility and actively recruited them into the civil
 For Frederick was above all a pragmatic
  enlightened monarch who saw the need to placate
  all aspects of society.
 His Father, Frederick William, was against the
  nobility and preferred a system based on merit
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 Frederick eliminated the use of torture in
  judicial proceedings and judicial
  punishments, abandoned capital punishment
  and greatly reduced corruption in the
  judicial system.
 Yet, he was not against persecution of the
  Jews, and levied huge taxes on Jews in
  order to drive them out of the country.
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 With Maria Theresa under attack by
  Frederic the Great, (she was the only heir to
  her father Charles VI of Austria) she sought
  help from the Hungarians and the British.
 Maria Theresa knew that she had to model
  the centralized power of many of the other
  European states, and began reform of the
  Austrian Monarchy.
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 She divided the Austrian Empire into ten
  tightly-knit and closely administered units.
  Each administrative unit was run by a "war
  commissioner" who was appointed and
  controlled by the central government in
 She taxed heavily and modernized her
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 In 1765, Joseph II, the son of Maria
  Theresa, became Emperor of Austria and
  ruled jointly with his mother until she died
  in 1780; Joseph continued as Emperor until
 He will go much farther than his mother in
  modernizing the kingdom.
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 He was unsuccessful in undermining the power of
  the Hungarian Nobility
 He virtually ended the power of the catholic
  church in Austria
 He abolished serfdom as a legal status entirely. In
  addition, he granted a number of new liberties to
  the peasant population: the right to learn skills, the
  right to marry, the right to educate their own
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 In line with Enlightenment thought, he
  passed a series of religious reforms tha
  attacked religious intolerance.
 In 1781, he declared the Toleration Patent,
  which declared that all Lutherans, Greek
  Orthodox, and Calvinist churches could
  freely worship without official harassment.
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 Catherine the Great of Russia
 She was not even Russian, (German) and Married
  the nephew of the daughter of Peter the Great,
 Elizabeth dies in 1762,. And Catherine husband,
  Peter III, takes control.
 He is assassinated by the nobles, and it was
  always rumored that Catherine had something to
  do with it.
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   Her background as a German princess, as
    well as her education in philosophe
    literature, led her to believe that Russia was
    a barbaric and backward country; she
    dedicated her monarchy to bringing Russia
    into the modern, European age.
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 She wrote the commission a document
  called the Instructions ; the general tone and
  most of the ideas of this document were
  derived from philosophes literature and
 The Purpose of this commission was to
  modernize the Legal codes in Russia
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 Ultimately, out of necessity, Catherine would
  abandon the major components of Enlightened
  Rule and fall back upon the practicality of
  Absolutism without the tinge of Enlightened
 Her reliance on the loyalty of the Russian nobility
  overcame any real attempt to question their
  importance from an Enlightened standpoint.
 Since the nobility had the power to topple her
  regime, she had no choice but to embrace them.
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 Her experience is typical of the Enlightened
 There were movements to war change, but
  ultimately the weight of generations of autocratic
  rule, the primacy of the nobility and the church,
  precluded any really chance that would truly
  reflect the change that was emblematic of the
  Enlightened Philosophers.
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