Age of reason or enlightenment
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Age of Reason or Enlightenment. Rise of Rationalism. Age of Reason: 1700-1800. Started in Europe and spread to America Rationalism – belief that human beings can arrive at truth by using reason, rather than by relying on the authority of the past, on religious faith, or on intuition.

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Age of Reason or Enlightenment

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Age of reason or enlightenment

Age of Reason or Enlightenment

Rise of Rationalism


Age of reason 1700 1800

Age of Reason: 1700-1800

Started in Europe and spread to America

Rationalism – belief that human beings can arrive at truth by using reason, rather than by relying on the authority of the past, on religious faith, or on intuition


Rationalists saw god differently

Rationalists saw God differently

Sir Isaac Newton compared God to a clockmaker. God created the perfect mechanism, the universe, and left it to run on its own – like a clock.


Special gift

Special gift

Rationalists believed God’s special gift to humanity is reason – the ability to think in an ordered, logical manner

It enables people to discover both scientific and spiritual truth.


Smallpox plague

Smallpox Plague

In April 1721, a ship from the West Indies brought smallpox to “America”

Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister, advocated for inoculation

Inoculation was a method devised by a Turkish physician


Rationalism

Rationalism

Rationalists required a willingness to experiment, to try things out, no matter what the authorities might say.

These ideas began challenging the Puritan theology –threatened the faith system of the Puritans

Best form of worship is to do good for others


Different views

Different views

  • Puritans believed God was actively and mysteriously involved in the workings of the universe.

  • Rationalists believed God created the universe and acted as an absentee landlord.


Common beliefs of deism

Common Beliefs of Deism

Faith in natural goodness - a human is born without taint or sin

Perfectibility of a human being - it is possible to improve situations of birth, economy, society, and religion.

The sovereignty of reason - echoes of Rene Descartes‘ I think, therefore, I am (as the first certitude in resolving universal doubt.)

Universal benevolence - the attitude of helping everyone.


Functions of the writers

Functions of the Writers

A searching inquiry in all aspects of the world around

Interest in the classics as well as in the Bible

Interest in nature – the “absentee landlord” phenomenon

Interest in science and scientific experiments

Optimism –experiments in utopian communities

Sense of a person’s duty to succeed

Constant search of the self – emphasis on individualism


Tinkerers and experimenters

Tinkerers and Experimenters

  • Prominent American rationalists include: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Thomas Paine

  • Writings reflected rationalist worldview

  • Most prominent work was Franklin’s

    The Autobiography

    • “Rags to riches” story


Forming a new nation

Forming a new nation

  • Signed Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776

  • Many arguments in Declaration based on rationalist beliefs

  • George Washington, a rationalist, elected first president of United States


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