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The Age of Enlightenment. Origins The Enlightenment. Origins of Enlightenment. Science Newton’s laws of physics make sense of the universe Science allows alternatives to be imagined in politics and social reform Growth of Scientific Academies. Origins of Enlightenment. Religion

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OriginsThe Enlightenment

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Origins of Enlightenment

  • Science

    • Newton’s laws of physics make sense of the universe

    • Science allows alternatives to be imagined in politics and social reform

    • Growth of Scientific Academies

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Origins of Enlightenment

  • Religion

    • Physico-theology = Theology reinforced by physical or natural truths

    • Search for “rational” religion, free from superstition, mystery, miracles

    • Enlightenment thinkers attacked organized religion.

    • New forms of worship

      • Deism

      • Pantheism

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Argument FOR the existence of God

  • Thomas Hobbes used the cosmological argument for the existence of God at several places in his writings.

    “The effects we observe . . . . must have been produced by something before it, and that again by something else before that, till we come to an eternal, that is to say, the first power of all powers and first cause of all causes; and this is the name of God.”

  • Or, as Thomas Aquinas put it: “The universe must have been caused by something which was itself uncaused, which is God.”

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Deism – 17th/18th Centuries

  • England, France, US

  • Rejects supernatural events, divine revelation

    • Deny religions that believe in such things.

  • Religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observable features of the natural world

    • These reveal the existence of a supreme being.

  • Truth is obtained through experience and reasoning

  • Innate truths are those that are universally accepted.

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5 Main Beliefs of Deists

  • There is one Supreme God

  • He ought to be worshipped

  • Virtue and piety are chief parts of divine worship

  • We should be sorry for our sins and repent

  • Divine goodness dispenses rewards and punishments (in this life and after)

  • Prominent Deists: Voltaire, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson

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Reasons for the Rise of Deism

  • Renaissance to the Age of Discovery:

    • World-wide diversity means that Christianity was just one religion among many

  • Thirty Years War:

    • Wide-scale violence led to search for natural religious truths that could be universally accepted.

  • Scientific Revolution: old ideas destroyed.

    • The Bible = authority on faith and morals, not science

    • Isaac Newton: “Clockmaker” analogy

    • Increased skepticism of miracles – seen as “violations” of natural law

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Criticisms of Deism

  • Around 1800, Deism began to die out.

    • loss of confidencein reason and rationalism

    • Excesses of the French Revolution

    • Fear that freedom of thought would lead to atheism

    • "This is the best of all possible worlds" is false

      • Oppression and in poverty still exist

    • Christian revivalist movements

      • “Great Awakening”

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  • Definition: "God is All” and "All is God”

    • Everything of the universe (nature) and God are equivalent

  • Naturalistic pantheism

    • Nature is seen as God

  • Spinoza

    • God and Nature are merely two names for one reality

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Characteristics of the Enlightenment

  • Rationalism: Reason is all things

  • Cosmology: the origin and structure of the universe

    • New concept of man and his place on earth

    • Place of earth in the universe

    • God is the first cause, not the father of all

  • Secularism: applying methods of science to religion and philosophy

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More Characteristics of the Enlightenment

  • Scientific Method

    • Deductive Reasoning

    • General to specific

  • Utilitarianism

    • “Greatest Good for the Greatest Number”

    • An action is right if it promotes happiness (not for one being, but for all beings)

    • The right thing can be done from the wrong motive

  • Tolerance: There might be more than one way to worship or govern

Descartes: the founder of Rationalism

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More Characteristics of the Enlightenment

  • Optimism and Self-Confidence

    • Man is intrinsically good

    • Belief in social progress

  • Freedom

    • Of thought and expression

    • Liberty should belong to all men

      • Oppressors of liberty (absolutism) need to be removed

  • Education of the Masses

    • Tool for creating a “new race of men”

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Even More Characteristics

  • Legal Reforms

    • Justice, kindness, charity should be provided to all

    • This also means Poor Houses and unfair Poor Laws

  • Constitutionalism

    • Written constitutions that list the rights of citizens

  • Cosmopolitanism

    • All human beings belong to a single community

    • Works with Natural Law and the idea of “universal truths”

    • Increase in trade fostered romanticized view of “one world”

    • A “Cosmopolitan” is at home anywhere

      • No one religion or political authority

      • Loves travel and discovery

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The Enlightened Individual: the Philosophe

  • Not original thinkers like the philosophers, but helped disseminate new thinking

    • Critical and inquiring spirit

  • Progress, modernity

  • “Students of Society”

    • Analyzed evils

    • Advanced social and political reforms

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Reason and Logic


Empiricism (learning by doing)




Tradition andSuperstition

Nostalgia for the past

Organized religions



The Great Debate


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The Philosophers and Philosophes

Philosopher in Meditation

Rembrandt, 1632

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Marquis de Condorcet

  • Progress of the Human Mind

    • Expectation of universal human happiness

    • Those guided by reason can enjoy true happiness

    • Beliefs: Free will and equal education, constitutionalism, and women’s rights

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John Locke

  • 1632-1704

  • Letter on Toleration

  • Two Treatises on Government

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John Locke’s Philosophy

  • Each individual must be a rational creature

  • Virtue can be learned and practiced

  • Legislators owe their power to a contract with the people

  • Wealth is not divinely ordained

  • No king is divinely appointed

  • Human beings possess free will

    • Obedience should be out of conviction, not fear

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More on John Locke

  • Natural Rights endowed by God: Life, Liberty, Property

  • A Republic is the best form of government

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So, what are Natural Rights?

  • Based on Natural Law (Man is a rational animal)

    • The Right to Life

    • Right to Liberty – You can do what you want under the Law. You possess your body and what you produce. Most of life is not to be regulated. What did this mean for the masses?

    • The Right to Property - Keep what you own (your property, said Locke).

      • Locke also said the right to property = the right to a livelihood and therefore, the right to life.

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Immanuel Kant

  • 1724-1804

  • German Philosopher

  • Critique of Pure Reason (1787)

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Kant’s Philosophy

  • Motto: Dare to Know!

  • Transcendentalism

    • It is sometimes necessary to believe in non-rational things

  • A priori knowledge

    • Transcends sensory experience

    • Pure, not empirical (empirical = dependent on observable evidence)

      • Faith, Life after death)

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Thomas Paine

  • 1737-1809

  • Witnessed French and American revolutions

  • Common Sense

    • It is against natural law for an island to rule a continent

  • The Rights of Man

    • Liberty, human equality

    • There are “self-evident” truths

    • The role of government is to preserve these rights

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American Philosophes

  • John Adams

  • Benjamin Franklin

  • Thomas Jefferson

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Voltaire 1694-1778

  • Candide

    • Shows weaknesses of society

    • This cannot be the “best of all possible worlds”

    • We need more than optimism

  • Philosophical Dictionary

    • Church criticism, politics, personal enemies

    • Ideal religion = morality over dogma

  • Praised Louis XIV and thought “Enlightened Despotism” was the best government (embrace rationality)

  • A strong monarchy could keep down the Church and the aristocracy

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Voltaire’s Wisdom

  • “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”

  • “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

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

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

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Voltaire’s Most Famous Words

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

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Baron de Montesquieu

  • 1689-1755

  • On the Spirit of Laws

    • Politics and law should reflect the community

  • Philosophy

    • Three types of Government: Monarchy, Republic, Despotism

    • Separation of political powers = freedom and liberty

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Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • 1712-1778

  • The Social Contract

    • Justifies the state

    • Man must adopt “contract” by choice

  • Émile

    • Only men "function in an imperfect world while remaining true to their natural character”

    • Women must teach their husbands to function within society.

      • Mothers protect their children from the horrors of the world and raise them with good ethics and virtues.

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Rousseau’s Philosophy

  • Virtue exists in the “state of nature” but is lost in society

  • Government must preserve virtue and liberty

  • “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains.”

  • “Noble Savage”

    • Man is basically good

    • A Savage is uncorrupted by civilization

  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

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The Noble Savage

  • Does progress in art and science lead to progress in morality?

  • No!

  • As civilizations “progress” they move away from morality.

  • Civilization leads away from natural laws

  • Technology and art create false desires.

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More on Rousseau

  • “General Will”

    • General Will = Law + Freedom

    • Those who make their own laws are free

    • Virtuous citizens will agree and become one in spirit

      • Discussions lead to unity

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Edward Gibbon

  • 1737-1794

  • Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    • Rome fell for two reasons.

      • Overwhelmed by barbarians.

      • Adoption of Christianity

        • Christianity is a “servile and pusillanimous religion” that “debased" the Roman mind and soul.

        • The Romans replaced scientific rationalism with a "vile" religion, making Rome vulnerable to internal strife.

        • Wrote this as a warning to other governments: “Look what might happen to you!”

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Parisian Salons

  • Serious, thoughtful attention

  • 3 Types: Literary, Philosophical, Political

  • Goal: advance humankind, create reform through education

  • Discuss criticisms that might otherwise be censored

  • Paris was center of “Republic of Letters”

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Salons and Women

  • Salons run by Salonnieres

  • Goal: Educate women and provide social and intellectual exchange for all.

  • Substitute for formal education.

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Salons and Women

  • Showcase for “woman’s distinctive traits”

  • At the salon, womanly graces came into practice, including:

    • kindness

    • sympathy

    • charm

    • unselfish loyalty

    • “disinterested enthusiasm”

  • Humanize and socialize the great thoughts of male philosophers.

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    The Salonnieres

    • Mme. Geoffrin

    • Her salon was said to be "one of the wonders of the social world”

      • She was not aristocratic

      • She was not beautiful

      • She was not educated

      • But she was interested, which made her interesting

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    Mme. de Stäel (1766-1817)

    • "Men of wit are so astounded by the existence of women rivals that they cannot judge them with generosity or indulgence.”

    • Believed in the monarchy as long as it lasted

      • When it fell, she did not believe it should be restored

      • “Liberty and tolerance are essential”

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    Criticism of Salons

    • Jean Jacques Rousseau

      • No public intellectual discourse could possibly take place in salons led by women.

        “What can be the temper of a man who is uniquely occupied with the important business of amusing women and who spends his entire life doing for them what they ought to do for us?"

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    Denis Diderot

    • 1713-1784

    • Encyclopedie

      • Systematic explanations of science and art

      • What the well-educated person should know

    • 17 volumes of knowledge!

      • 2500 sold, half outside of France

      • Even aristocrats and clergy bought and read this work.

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    The “Republic of Letters”

    • Membership in the “Republic of Letters” was more important than any political allegiance

    • Three Characteristics

      • Urban

        • Gathering of “elites” in salons

      • Urbane

        • Cosmopolitan, worldly

        • Interested in music, art, literature, politics

        • Read newspapers, latest books

      • Good Manners

        • Perfect manners

        • Be “self-governed”

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    Reading During the Enlightenment

    • Literacy Increased

      • By 1800 in Europe: 80% of men were literate, 60% of women

      • Germany: 5% overall in 1500, 50% overall by 1800

    • Books were expensive

      • Equal to one day’s wages

      • Ratio of readers per book: 20:1

      • What they read:

        • Novels, plays, journals, memoirs

        • Philosophy, history, theology

        • Newspapers, political pamphlets

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    Enlightened Despotism

    • Embraced main ideas of Enlightenment, such as rationality

      • “enlightenment” = “westernization” (progress)

      • “rationality” = justification for oppressive measures

      • Raison d'etat (national interest) became the justification of their rule.

        • Monarch can do anything to pursue military, political, or economic interests

        • The People’s interest does not need to come first

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    • Enlightened Acts

    • Modernized agriculture and industry

    • Encouraged foreign investment

    • Relaxed censorship laws

    • Encouraged education for middle classes

    • Established commission to advise her on revisions in Russian law

    • Unenlightened Acts

    • Reorganized local governments

    • Partitioned Poland, destroying the Polish State

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    Pugachev Rebellion

    • Peasant Revolt caused by absolute control over serfs by nobles

    • 50 revolts between 1762-1769

      • Weakened Catherine’s power over provinces

    • Pugachev: Executed 1775.

    • Caused numerous “Reforms”

      • Serfs further tied to land

      • Provinces got more self control

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    Frederick the Great1712-1786

    • Wrote a work in opposition to Machiavelli’s The Prince

    • Invited Voltaire and Kant to his court

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    Frederick the Great

    • Enlightened Acts

    • Better legal protection for all citizens

    • German Law Code

    • Built canals and roads

    • New crops (potato)

    • Allowed Catholics and Jews to settle in his country

    • Freedom of the press

    • Unenlightened Acts

    • Appointed only Protestants to offices

    • Ran the State as a military regime (junker class)

    • Continued oppression of the serfs

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    Joseph II of Austria1741-1790

    • Understand the ideology of the Enlightenment.

    • Reforms were utilitarian (“greatest good for the greatest amount”)

    • However, intense belief in . . .

      • his right to act, unlimited by laws

      • the “logic” of his rule

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    Joseph II

    • Enlightened Acts

    • Centralized the State

    • Ended local parliaments to streamline bureaucracy

    • Religious Toleration Decree

    • Reformed judicial system

    • Unenlightened Acts

    • Partition of Poland

    • Wanted to reduce Hungarian self-rule

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    Economics and a New Age Coming

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    Adam Smith

    • The Wealth of Nations (1776)

      • Written for the average educated person

    • Attacked Mercantilism

      • Protective tariffs and bullion supplies only benefit the state -- not the individual

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    Adam Smith

    • Economic system based on “natural liberty”

    • Theory: Individuals must rationally calculate their chances in the economic market

    • Beginning of Capitalism: A little selfishness is okay. People look out for their interests.

    • Religious View: Criticism for those who act out solely out of greed

    • Legacy: Apologist for merchant class and industrialists

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    More on Economics

    • Lawsof supply and demand

    • Laissez Faire: Government should not interfere in the economy (but should elsewhere)

    • Exploit nature for man's enrichment

    • Smith’s ideas were key to the Industrial Revolution

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    Music and Art

    Mozart, 1756-1791

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    Importance of Vienna

    • Crossroads

      • Hapsburg capital

      • Golden Years: 1780-1790

      • Sophisticated, liberal

      • Paris is the city of “letters” but Vienna is the city of music

    • Joseph II, an “Enlightened Despot,” supported the arts

      • Artists, musicians still relied on patronage of monarchs

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    Music and the Enlightenment

    • Mozart, Beethoven

    • Style: Music was meant to please the ear and to entertain

      • Natural simplicity

      • Not meant to instruct or impress

    • Era of first public concerts – composers creating music for the people’s pleasure

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    Rococo Style

    • Frivolous, opulent, playful, and light. Lots of pastels.

      • Reaction against rigid formality of the court of Louis XIV

      • Reaction against reason as it became the prevailing political and social attitude

      • Visual representation of the optimism people felt about this new era.

    • Art focused on the carefree aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance rather than heroic battles or religious figures.

      • Move away from morality, self-discipline, reason

    • Emphasized nature, natural surroundings

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    Antoine Watteau1684-1721

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    SanssouciThe Summer Palace of Frederick the Great