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The Enlightenment Essay

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❶The most fundamental part of their nature was human reason, the instrument by which people realized their potentials.

Basic Enlightenment Ideas

Early Enlightenment
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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. Nonetheless, the impact of the Revolution and the subsequent adoption of the Constitution on American Christianity cannot be overstated. This period laid the foundation for a bold experiment in religious freedom unlike any understandings of state-religion relations at the time.

Before Montesquieu made his specific suggestion in The Spirit of Laws, Locke had proposed that kings, judges, and magistrates should share power and thereby check one another.

Spinoza also proposed the need for local autonomy, including a local militia to guard against power concentrated in the center including a standing army. These ideas found their way first into the Articles of Confederation, which gave almost excessive power to the various states. Constitution specifically stated all powers not expressly given to the national government are reserved to the states and the people.

The emphasis of the political writers of the Enlightenment was on limited government rather than on direct democracy. Although their great enemy was arbitrary absolute central government, they were not enamored of the influence of the mob. Even though they saw the voting franchise as a check on over powerful government, they limited the franchise to property owners. Male suffrage in America did not come into existence until the age of Jackson.

The founders of the Constitution were anxious to include the electoral college as the final selecter of presidents. Direct election of senators did not occur until —13, and it was not until, , with Baker v. Technically, the United States remains a representative, not a direct, democracy.

Even Rousseau, considered the advocate of direct democracy, felt that direct democracy was most suited to small states like his home city of Geneva rather than a large state like France.

In this way, they prefigured the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, which stressed the goal of human happiness as long as it did no harm to others. In the latter 18th century, there was a reaction against the overuse of reason and science in securing human potential. Religious, philosophical, and humanitarian movements put new emphasis on idealism and emotionalism when it came to religious, philosophical, and social reforms.

The foremost philosopher of the later Enlightenment was Immanuel Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason argued that innate ideas exist before sensory experiences. Taking a page from Plato, Kant argued that certain inner concepts such as depth, beauty, cause, and especially God existed independently of the senses.

Some ideas were derived from reason, not the senses. Kant went beyond pure reason. Reason was based on intuition as well as interpretation of sensory experiences. Therefore, abstract reason could have moral and religious overtones. This came to be called new idealism, as opposed to classical idealism. Another reaction to this scientific perspective on religion was a movement in favor of a feeling, emotional deity everpresent in daily life.

Known 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. Preachers such as George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers gave stirring sermons with overtones of fire and brimstone in response to excessive rationality in church doctrine.

Their style of preaching appealed to the masses, whereas the intellectualized religion of the Enlightenment too often seemed like a creation for the educated upper classes. By the end of the century, the movement coalesced into the Methodist movement.

A new movement from Germany that stressed Bible study and hymn singing as well as preaching—the Moravians—earned a following in both Europe and America. Similar movements occurred among Lutherans and Catholics. The Great Awakening in the United States led to the formation of new individual-centered denominations such as the Unitarians and Universalists.

Both aspects of the religious side of the Enlightenment—rationalist and Pietist—were concerned with human worth. This desire for the improvement of human conditions led to humanitarian impulses. The antislavery movement gained momentum in the later 18th century.

Other movements, such as the push for prison reform, universal elementary education, Sunday school, and church schools, were all evident by Whether rationalist or Christian evangelical, reformers supported these movements. 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. As a result of the freedoms they wanted, people would be able to do as they pleased and further the sciences, as long as it did not hurt the common good. They led the world into several revolutions that brought about great change. The people of the Enlightenment wanted to break down the barriers that separated the classes and shift the balance of power to the people.

They had to make sacrifices as a result of the new privileges they gained, but it was at a price that everyone was willing to pay. They were willing to sacrifice for the common good, because it would benefit the majority.


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- 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.