Table of Contents Overview The Enlightenment was a sprawling intellectual, philosophical, cultural, and social movement that spread through England, France, Germany, and other parts of Europe during the s. Enabled by the Scientific Revolution, which had begun as early asthe Enlightenment represented about as big of a departure as possible from the Middle Ages—the period in European history lasting from roughly the fifth century to the fifteenth. The millennium of the Middle Ages had been marked by unwavering religious devotion and unfathomable cruelty. Rarely before or after did the Church have as much power as it did during those thousand years.
Scientific rationalism, exemplified by the scientific method, was the hallmark of everything related to the Enlightenment. Following close on the heels of the Renaissance, Enlightenment thinkers believed that the advances of science and industry heralded a new age of egalitarianism and progress for humankind.
More goods were being produced for less money, people were traveling more, and the chances for the upwardly mobile to actually change their station in life were significantly improving.
At the same time, many voices were expressing sharp criticism of some time-honored cultural institutions. The Church, in particular, was singled out as stymieing the forward march of human reason. Many intellectuals of the Enlightenment practiced a variety of Deism, which is a rejection of organized, doctrinal religion in favor of a more personal and spiritual kind of faith.
For the first time in recorded Western history, the hegemony of political and religious leaders was weakened to the point that citizens had little to fear in making their opinions known. Criticism was the order of the day, and argumentation was the new mode of conversation.
Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton are frequently mentioned as the progenitors of the Enlightenment.
In the later phase of the English Renaissance, Bacon composed philosophical treatises which would form the basis of the modern scientific method. Bacon was also a logician, pointing out the false pathways down which human reason often strays.
He was also an early proponent of state funding for scientific inquiry. Whereas Bacon worked in the realm of ideas and language, Isaac Newton was a pure scientist in the modern sense.
Like Galileo, he relied on observation and testing to determine the soundness of his theories. He was a firm believer in the importance of data, and had no philosophical qualms regarding the reliability of the senses.
This mechanistic view of the universe, a universe governed by a set of unchanging laws, raised the ire of the Church fathers. The Enlightenment would see these ideas applied to every segment of life and society, with huge ramifications for citizens and rulers alike. The Enlightenment was, at its center, a celebration of ideas — ideas about what the human mind was capable of, and what could be achieved through deliberate action and scientific methodology.
Many of the new, enlightened ideas were political in nature. Intellectuals began to consider the possibility that freedom and democracy were the fundamental rights of all people, not gifts bestowed upon them by beneficent monarchs or popes.
Egalitarianism was the buzzword of the century, and it meant the promise of fair treatment for all people, regardless of background.
Citizens began to see themselves on the same level as their leaders, subject to the same shortcomings and certainly subject to criticism if so deserved. Experimentation with elected, consensual leadership began in earnest.
The belief was that the combined rationality of the people would elect the best possible representatives.The Enlightenment was the name given to the period that preceded the Romantic Age, and it is in understanding the key features of the Enlightenment that one can best understand how the characteristics of Romanticism came to be, and how they differed so radically from those of the industrialized era.
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Analysis an introduction to the literary. The effects of Enlightenment thought soon permeated both European and American life, from improved women’s rights to more efficient steam engines, from fairer judicial systems to increased educational opportunities, from revolutionary economic theories to a rich array of literature and music.
Literary Analysis of the Enlightenment Period and Romanticism - During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the literary world witnessed the birth of the Enlightenment and Romantic Periods.
There were similarities as well as very notable differences between the two. In the dictionary the Enlightenment is defined as "a philosophical movement of the 18th century, characterized by belief in the power of human reason and by innovations in political, religious, and educational doctrine." The Enlightenment was enabled by .
Enlightenment scholars argued that the exercise of disciplined reason was the key to truth and progress. While this was proved largely true (most dramatically in the field of science), many Western thinkers wondered whether reason alone was sufficient.