The Enlightenment BY unet193 World Literature The Enlightenment’s Impact on the Modern World The Enlightenment, Age of Reason, began in the late 17th and 18th century. This was a period in Europe and America when mankind was emerging from centuries of ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and respect for humanity. This period promoted scientific thought, skeptics, and intellectual interchange: dismissing superstition, intolerance, and for some, religion. Western Europe, Germany, France, and Great Britain, and the American Colonies generally influenced the age of reason.
Following the Renaissance, science and rationality was the forefront of this age. The enlightenment came as a wave throughout Europe, drastically changing the culture. The literature of time reflected this idea. Authors such as Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were torchbearers of this time, writing Enlightenment literature and philosophy. The Enlightenment was the forefront for modern literature and changed the way people viewed and interacted with the world, without it society today would not be the same. The ideas of the Enlightenment have had a long-term major impact on the culture, politics, and governments of the
Western worlds. English philosopher John Locke’s principles of religious tolerance, the separation of church and state, and the social contract, for instance, greatly influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States as they planned their new country. Locke’s idea of a social contract, which Rousseau in particular developed, was also of great importance in France both before and after the French Revolution. Democratic institutions were in existence to some degree in England, Switzerland, and the United Province of the Netherlands when Rousseau elaborated his social contract.
Many of the ideas that the philosophers developed are intrinsic to modern democratic society, and they were often developed with the intent of creating such a society. It is important to note that Enlightenment thinkers were not the only source of such ideas. These are only two of many examples of how these ideas influenced later events. In fact, these three countries were important centers for printing and discussion, even though much of the discussion was about how to change the repressive society in France; French exiles, including both Rousseau and Voltaire, took efuge in these countries when the French state sought to silence them.
The 18th century was a time, which saw a significant expansion of knowledge in the realm of the natural world. In conjunction with the emerging philosophical enquiry of the Enlightenment, men of science began to investigate widespread beliefs about the structure of the universe, and even the type of knowledge that was possible for the human mind to understand. A great many of the Enlightenment writers possessed a background in the sciences, or a willingness to conduct scientific experiments. Adam Smith, US representative and philosopher states, Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. (Smith) Like many he believed that in order to clear the mind ot talse superstition and tocus on the true nature of a human science was necessary. A notable opponent was Rousseau, he believed that science led to the distancing of mankind from nature and often worked against the improvement and development of individuals. The spread of science in the 18th century was enhanced by the numbers of scientific societies and academies which had started to emerge in the previous century and which, in eneral, accepted “Newtonianism” over the Cartesian system.
It should be noted, however, that science was not a term often used by Enlightenment thinkers; the use of natural philosophy illustrates that it was originally conceived of as a line of enquiry that shared contact points with moral philosophy and epistemology. The philosophers generally favored reducing government control over the market, which we call “laissez-faire” economics. The most prominent school of laissez-faire thinkers in France were the physiocrats, who believed that the only real ource of national wealth was agriculture.
An unobstructed supply of grain in France would be a means of increasing total output. In 1776 Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, which forwards similar ideas. Smith was somewhat different from the physiocrats, though, because he believed that labor and the market were the prime creators of wealth. Smith argues “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and Judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of abour. (Smith) He believes labor for one owns success is the best way to work, not wealth based on social standings. In making these arguments, both the physiocrats and Adam Smith struck at the hold that the aristocracy was trying to maintain on the economy. Locke agrees, “All wealth is the product of labor” The laissez-faire economists believed that wealth should not be confined to one class. As articulated in France, therefore, the argument for laissez-faire economics was an argument that the ancient regime should be abolished and replaced with a more equal basis for ociety.
Most literature was nonfiction, which means it was based on fact rather than being made up by the author’s imagination. Its aims were to instruct, to enlighten, and to make people think. Immanuel Kant, German philosopher, states “Two things inspire me to awe: the starry heavens above and the moral universe within. “(Kant) He explains the sort of wonder and inspiration found in the literature of the Enlightenment age Two of the primary targets of critical examination during the Enlightenment were governments and religious authorities.
These calls for reform ere raised by some of the most eloquent writers in history, such that the Enlightenment is also known as the golden age of satire. The two leading figures of Enlightenment satire are Voltaire (in French) and Swift (in English). Voltaire battled many forms of injustice, including religious and political discrimination, arbitrary imprisonment, and torture. He is known primarily for his many philosophical and satirical works, including novels, short stories, and essays. His masterpiece is the novel Gulliver’s Travels, a broad examination of ethics, politics, and society framed in series of fantastic adventures.
During the late seventeenth century, France waxed as the supreme political and cultural power of Europe. Classical French literature flourished especially in the form of drama. French tragedy peaked in the works of Jean Racine, while Moliere, otten considered the greatest ot all French dramatists, attained the pinnacle of French comedy. While ancient and medieval writers produced novels, the form received unprecedented attention in modern times. Formative age novel writing flourished primarily in Spanish, French, English, and German.
As the novel did not achieve its supreme position until the nineteenth century, novelists of the formative age are generally less prominent than other literary fgures, namely poets and dramatists. Nonetheless, a list of the foremost novelists of the formative age will be attempted here: in Spanish, Cervantes; Defoe’s foremost work, Robinson Crusoe, is likely the most widely familiar novel of the entire formative age. These ideas, works, and principles of the Enlightenment would continue to affect Europe and the rest of the Western world for decades and even centuries to come.
Nearly every theory or fact that is held in modern science has a foundation in the Enlightenment; Yet it is not simply the knowledge attained during the Enlightenment that makes the era so pivotal”it’s also the era’s groundbreaking and tenacious new approaches to investigation, reasoning, and problem solving that make it so important. although some may have been persecuted for their new ideas, it nevertheless became indisputable that thought had the power to incite real change. Just like calculus or free trade, the very concept of freedom of expression had to come from somewhere, and it too had firm roots in the Enlightenment.
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