Skip Nav

Enlightenment and Revolution

Early Enlightenment

❶Known as Pietism in Europe and in America variously as evangelism and charismatic Christianity, the movement known as the Great Awakening swept the Americas and Europe in the s and s.

Found what you're looking for?

Basic Enlightenment Ideas
Learn more

Therefore, people had the right to withdraw their allegiance. Ironically, the rationale used to justify the triumph of Parliament over the Crown in England was used against Parliament and Britain nearly a century later in the American Revolution. Influenced by Newtonian science that posited universal laws that governed the natural world, the Enlightenment emphasis was on human reason.

According to major Enlightenment thinkers, both faith in nature and belief in progress were important to the human condition. The individual was subject to universal laws that governed the universe and formed nature. Using the gift of reason, people would seek to find happiness. Human virtue and happiness were best achieved by freedom from unnecessary restraints imposed by church and state. Not surprisingly, Enlightenment thinkers believed in education as an essential component in human improvement.

They also tended to support freedom of conscience and checks in absolute government. The early Enlightenment was centered in England and Holland. It was interpreted by conservative English figures to justify the limits on the Crown imposed by Parliament. The limited government supported by the Whigs who took over was spread abroad by the newly created Masonic movement.

In Holland, which was the home of refugees from absolutist leaders such as refugees from England of the later Stuart monarchy and from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and was nominally a republic, the earliest writings appeared.

Its most famous philosopher, Spinoza, argued that God existed everywhere in nature, even society, meaning that it could rule itself. This philosophy applied to arguments against state churches and absolute monarchs.

Montesquieu in his greatest work, The Spirit of Laws, argued that checks and balances among executive, legislative, and judicial branches were the guarantors of liberty.

Voltaire, the leading literary figure of the age, wrote histories, plays, pamphlets, essays, and novels, as well as correspondence with monarchs such as Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia. In all of these works, he supported rationalism and advocated reform. Diderot edited an encyclopedia that included over 70, articles covering the superiority of science, the evils of superstition, the virtues of human freedom, the evils of the slave trade in Africa, and unfair taxes.

Rousseau, however, was not a fan of science and reason. Rather, in the Social Contract, he spoke of the general will of the people as the basis of government.

His ideas were to be cited by future revolutions from the French to the Russian. Enlightenment thought spread throughout the globe and was especially forceful in Europe and the Americas. In Scotland, some ideas of the Enlightenment influenced the writings of David Hume, who became the best known of skeptics of religion, and Adam Smith, who argued that the invisible hand of the market should govern supply and demand and government economic controls should not exist.

In America, deism the belief that God is an impersonal force in the universe and the moral embodiment of the Newtonian laws of the universe attracted Thomas. Jefferson and Thomas Paine. On the political side, thinkers such as Thomas Hooker and John Mayhew spoke of government as a trustee that must earn the trust of its constituency and as a financial institution with a fiduciary duty to its depositors.

It was in the realms of politics, religion, philosophy, and humanitarian affairs that the Enlightenment had its greatest effect. The figures of the French Enlightenment opposed undue power as exemplified by absolute monarchy, aristocracy based on birth, state churches, and economic control by the state as exemplified by mercantilism.

Enlightened thinkers saw the arbitrary policies of absolute monarchies as contradictory to the natural rights of man, according to the leaders of the American Revolution.

The most fundamental part of their nature was human reason, the instrument by which people realized their potentials. The individual was a thinking and judging being who must have the highest of freedom in order to operate.

The best government, like the best economy, was the government that governed least. The Enlightenment extended to the political realm and was especially critical of monarchs who were more interested in their divine right than in the good of their people. Man was innately good; however, society could corrupt him. The revolutionaries had so much bitterness towards those people with the power, that they went over the edge and treated those in power the same way they had been treated.

These changes, however, allowed the common people much more freedom to do as they pleased, gave the common people more of a say in politics and also broke down some of the walls that separated the classes.

Voltaire agreed that the upper classes and had too much power. He depicts those people from the upper two classes as being cruel and unjust.

In Candide, Voltaire describes what happens to Candide when he is found kissing the daughter of a Baron when he says "The Baron of Thunder-ten-tronck came around the partition and, seeing this cause and effect, drove Candide out of the castle with great kicks in the behind. The Baron did not think that Candide deserved to be with his daughter because he was of a lower class. Voltaire thought that the barriers between classes were unfair.

This was part of the reason the thinkers of the Enlightenment wanted to break down social barriers and grant more freedom to all people. They freedom that the people of the Enlightenment wanted, allowed them to pursue new fields of learning and broaden their knowledge.

This led to many new advancements in the sciences. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is able to pursue the studies he wants, depending on what he feels like getting involved in at the time. He says "In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics, and the branches of study appertaining to that science, as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration. The fields of science were rapidly advancing, because of the new freedom that was part of the cause of the Enlightenment thinkers.

But, along with the new rights and freedoms people were to be acquiring, there would be new duties that they would also have. With the new privileges the people would have, they would have more responsibilities. If there are to be elected officials, for instance, then the people have to be informed and vote. To some people, having this responsibility is a heavy burden. That is why it is hard to get people today to go out and vote. Also, for the common good of everyone, people would sometimes have to sacrifice things that they want or need.

Giuseppe Mazzini says "Your first duties- first, at least in importance- are, as I have told you, to Humanity. You are men before you are citizens or fathers. Along with all the new things that people would be able to do, they would also have responsibilities they would struggle with when they encountered them. The Enlightenment was an exciting period of time. The great thinkers of the time period brought some very radical changes into the world.

They based all of their ideals on the principle that are men are equal. Many of its advocates, many of whom were themselves Christian, often dismissed the new revivalist religion of the Great Awakening as emotionally excessive. Evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, often viewed rationalism, religious tolerance, and other enlightenment ideals as dangerous to piety and national solidarity in the budding republic. Historians have usually cast this controversy in terms of a conflict between those who favored rational religion and those who opposed them by defending an emotional religion of the heart.

But the Enlightenment was so pervasive in the colonies that few Americans remained wholly untouched by its spirit. Both the emotionalism of revivalist religion and the reasoned ideals associated with the Enlightenment played important roles in the American Revolution. Revolutionaries were drawn from all religious camps and most of them shared a common commitment to freedom of religion.

Most—though certainly not all—revolutionaries, however, fought not for religious freedom for all, but rather for their particular sects or denominations.

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

- Science vs the Enlightenment vs Politics This essay argues that the Enlightenment is the most important concept among the three given in the title. The Age of Enlightenment was a period in early modern history when western societies, led by its intellectuals, made a marked shift from religion based authority to one of scientific reason.

Privacy FAQs

Mar 06,  · The Enlightenment was a period of much intellectual and social growth. The way people looked at the world changed. The way people looked at the world changed. During the Enlightenment, people started to believe that all men were free people.

About Our Ads

The Enlightenment Essay The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which took place in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As a historical category, the term "Enlightenment" refers to a series of changes in European thought and letters. The Age of Enlightenment Essay Words 9 Pages The Enlightenment was a period in the eighteenth century where change in philosophy and cultural life took place in Europe.

Cookie Info

Research Papers words ( pages) Essay The Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason Analysis - The “Age of Enlightenment” also known as the “Age of Reason” took place around Europe between the 17th and 18th century. Oct 11,  · The Age of Enlightenment Essay Words | 9 Pages The Enlightenment was a period in the eighteenth century where change in philosophy and cultural life took place in Europe.