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The Age of Reason & Enlightenment. Age of Reason. Scientific Revolution convinced many about the power of reason People wondered if reason could be used to study human nature and society This time of optimism is the Enlightenment . Reason.

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The Age of Reason & Enlightenment


Age of reason
Age of Reason

  • Scientific Revolution convinced many about the power of reason

  • People wondered if reason could be used to study human nature and society

  • This time of optimism is the Enlightenment


Reason
Reason

  • Reason is the best way to understand what is true

  • Reason can solve all human problems

  • Reason is the absence of intolerance, bigotry, or prejudice in one’s thinking

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Francisco de Goya, 1797.


Nature
Nature

  • The philosophes (Enlightenment thinkers) referred to nature frequently

  • If it worked in nature, it could be applied to society


Happiness
Happiness

  • Rejected medieval idea that people should be miserable now to get into heaven

  • Wanted people to look for well-being and happiness while they were actually alive


Progress
Progress

  • Society and humankind could progress and be improved


Liberty
Liberty

  • Liberties (freedoms) that had been won in different revolutions should be spread

Liberty Leading the People

EugèneDelacroix, 1830


New views on government
New Views on Government

The Enlightenment started from key ideas put forth by English philosophes in the 1600s who had lived through the political turmoil in England.

This is known as a social contract


John Locke

  • People could learn from their experiences and improve

  • Human beings possess free will

    • Obedience to government should be out of true belief, not out of fear

  • The Divine Right of Kings was nonsense


John Locke’s Philosophy

  • There are natural rights given by God to all human beings:

    • Life

    • Liberty

    • Property

  • Governments owe their power to a contract with the people

    • If government is not protecting the above rights, people have the right to overthrow an unjust government


Applying locke to real life
Applying Locke to real life…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The U.S. Declaration of Independence!

So what document is this from??


Thomas hobbes
Thomas Hobbes

  • Believed people are naturally selfish and wicked

  • Governments are needed to keep order

  • People had to give over some of their rights to a strong government in order to gain law and order

  • Hobbes’ version of a social contract required that the ruler had total power to keep people under control

Without government, the “life of man [would be] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”


Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • “Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”

  • Society corrupted people’s natural goodness

  • People are equal; nobility should be abolished

  • Effective government is formed by the people and guided by the “general will” of society

  • Social contracts are an agreement by free people to give up some of their freedoms in favor of the common good


The Baron de Montesquieu

  • Separation of powers would keep individuals or groups from gaining total control

  • “Power should be a check to power” – the initial idea behind checks and balances!

  • Best form of government divides power amongst branches of government


Main ideas of the philosophes
Main Ideas of the Philosophes

  • Reason can be used to solve all human problems

  • Human society is governed by Natural Laws

  • People should find happiness in their lives

  • Society can be improved and progress

  • Liberty should be spread to all countries and all people


New views on society
New Views on Society

While some Enlightenment philosophes focused on government, others focused on issues such as social classes, women’s rights, and economic principles


Voltaire
Voltaire

  • Attacked injustices committed by nobility, government, church

  • Fought for tolerance, reason, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech

  • Humanities worst enemies were intolerance, prejudice, superstition

  • Published over 70 books!


Voltaire’s Wisdom

  • “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  • “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

  • “Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

  • “Men are equal; it is not birth, but virtue that makes the difference.”

  • “Prejudice is opinion without judgment.”

  • “The way to become boring is to say everything.”


Mary wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft

  • Many Enlightenment thinkers held traditional views about women

    • Proper roles: wives and mothers

    • Should receive limited education

  • Wollstonecraft demanded equal rights for women

    • Argued women needed an education to be virtuous and useful

    • Urged women to go into traditionally male professions, such as politics


Adam smith
Adam Smith

  • Argued for free market economy

    • Prices determined by competition between privately owned businesses

  • Economy would be stronger if supply and demand were allowed to work freely

  • Strong believer in laissez-faire economics- no government involvement and no taxes


Legacy of the enlightenment
Legacy of the Enlightenment

  • Belief in Progress –human reason could solve society’s problems

  • More Secular Outlook – people began to openly question their religious beliefs and the teachings of the church

  • Importance of Individual– as people turned away from the Church and royalty for instruction, they looked to themselves instead


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