The Age of Enlightenment was a period of scientific awakening, largely centred around France, although the starting point for Enlightenment was John Locke's (1632-1705) book Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), which was a relentless attack on metaphysical arguments. Metaphysics is posing the existence of objects that cannot be observed.Four areas where significant change occurred were:
The Enlightenment met the church head on, tackling previously avoided issues. It was, at least initially, an act of great courage to defy the church. Kant said 'sapere aude' = 'dare to know'. Having courage of your own understanding.
In particular, the Enlightenment allows people to question anything.
The focus on self-consciousness led to a break with the past rather than a gradual change and the tendency towards specialisations led to hastening of division of disciplines (see Descartes) and spawned many specialist journals and an active printing industry.
Four main transformations
- Questioning of Catholic beliefs and Protestantism led to tolerance for new ideas.
- Free intellectual inquiry resulted from widespread opposition to religious intolerance.
- The French revolution led to 'age of reason'.
- Educational institutions free of religious allegiance also spread.
- Industrial revolution, move away from agrarian fiefdoms led to an increasingly wealthy, independent and educated middle class.
- Nation-states emerged, ruled by kings and parliaments that only paid lip-service to religious rule.
- Parties and factions which have legitimate differences of opinion.