Friday, March 11, 2011

The Age of Enlightenment

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.
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

Four areas where significant change occurred were:
  • Religious
    • Questioning of Catholic beliefs and Protestantism led to tolerance for new ideas.
  • Intellectual
    • 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.
  • Economic
    • Industrial revolution, move away from agrarian fiefdoms led to an increasingly wealthy, independent and educated middle class.
  • Political
    • 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.

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